Warmer weather brings out the bugs. Insect eggs hatch out larvae that are eating machines. Some insects are more noticeable than others, either for the amount they eat or they way they bother us. “Tent caterpillar” and “army-worm” are two descriptions of insect larvae that can be confusing and also misunderstood. Eastern Tent Caterpillars cause some stir in the late spring due to their very obvious “tents” that they create in between tree arms (really it’s the armpit or crotch). Wild cherry trees are one of their favorite camp sites, and these trees are often on road sides. Many tend to be alarmed by the sheer number of caterpillars that occupy each tent and the number of tents per tree or shrub.  The caterpillars do eat a great deal of foliage, however the tree or shrub generally survives, no problem. Plus, they provide a very easy-to-access buffet for many birds.

Caterpillars, including tent caterpillars, provide a bountiful food source for birds and their growing young!



Another caterpillar also emerging about this time is the Forest Tent Caterpillar. They are often called “army-worms,” but they aren’t worms (caterpillars have legs and eyes and other features that true worms lack) and they don’t put up tents like the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. Their names don’t make much sense, do they? Maybe they added “tent” because of their in-tents nature of destruction! Too much with the tent joke? The photo above shows just how to identify each of the common late-spring caterpillars. The Eastern is probably the easiest to spot from a distance because of their tent structures. If you see the tents, think of the birds before torching this mostly harmless camp site!

Forest Tent Caterpillar outbreaks usually last 3-5 years and are quite destructive. They prefer aspen, but will also eat maple leaves. Pest specialists are expecting an increase in the population of Forest Tent Caterpillar. If you see damage to your trees but are unsure of the cause, contact Larry Czelusta, Missaukee County Forester, to help identify and brainstorm solutions. Call 839.7193 or email 


See the Forest for the Trees

In colonial days, the best of the trees were set apart by the king for masts on British ships. As the nation grew, the lumber of white pines built our homes and businesses. –National Arbor Day Foundation

Toothpaste, parmesan cheese, electricity and bubble gum… Did you know we enjoy these thanks to TREES!? Americans use an average of 4.5 pounds of wood products per day. Trees provide habitat, provide flood and shoreline protection, throw oxygen and absorb pollutants like carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Their importance cannot be overstated, and Missaukee Conservation District presents a tree and an activity each spring to students in the county.

This year over 300 students were wowed by the secret life of trees. Each student went home with a free Eastern White Pine seedling, Michigan’s State Tree, and at least one fun new factoid about how great all trees are.  “Many families in our community are supported by the forestry industry and of course, all of us use wood products daily,” Laura Quist, conservation educator, explains, “not only did we give away trees, but participants learned about the importance of forestry as wildlife habitat, its role in our local economy, and the ecological services forests provide.” Students also learned the inner works of a tree with a Project Learning Tree (PLT) activity.

Missaukee Conservation District offers a variety of free programming to school, scout and community groups. Find out more about scheduling our education programs or how you can volunteer with Missaukee Conservation District by exploring the Education and Volunteer Opportunities tabs.