Springtime is a time of new life for many things. Flowers, grass, animals, insects and pests. Pests, such as caterpillars, hatch in the spring only to eventually transform into moths and beautiful butterflies.

The forest tent caterpillar is among those plant eating pests that hatch in the spring. This type of caterpillar actively feeds on plant and tree leaves for about 2 months before spinning itself in a silk cocoon to molt into its final stage of life. Early July, after spending up to 3 weeks in their cocoon, the forest tent caterpillar will emerge as a tannish-yellow moth with a wingspan up to 2” wide.

These moths don’t have a long lifespan. After the final molt into a moth they mate, then the fertilized females lay eggs at the base of a tree twig or branch, then they die. This process takes no longer than a week. The female can lay up to 300 egg capsules that will overwinter and hatch the following spring.

These caterpillars prefer oak trees but can be found on birch, ash, and fruit trees. They create a silk tent-like mat that protects them from the elements and potential prey. This tent looks like a giant web condo with a large cluster of caterpillars crawling in and on it. This is called a community tent.

Forest tent caterpillars are nocturnal pests that feed on the leaves and fruits of its host tree. They can be damaging if left untreated, but trees can recover if damage is minimal. More severely damaged trees and plants may not recover.

Caterpillars, including forest tent caterpillars, have a defense mechanism. While they are in their cocoon, if they are disturbed, they will release enzymes that dissolve the tissue and it will liquify itself.

Forest tent caterpillars have tiny spike-like hairs on their bodies that have been known to cause allergic reactions in some humans when handled. These tiny hairs are called satae. They can be harmful to pets if the caterpillar is eaten. They can puncture intestines and digestive tracts and produce bacteria. This bacteria has been known to react to pregnant mares, mules, and donkeys causing miscarriages. It infects the reproductive organs and contaminates the amniotic sac in these animals.

Infestations of forest tent caterpillars can last several years if left untreated. Contact Safe Earth Pest Control for treatment. We have plans to fit all your pest control and lawn needs. 214-321-2847