Yellow Tent Caterpillars

marmie2(7)August 23, 2010

I am in Northern Virginia. I have just noticed several tents with caterpillars in them on a treelike bush in my yard. They don't look like the usual "tent caterpillars" we get in this area which are much larger and more black and gold. I see my neighbor's sourwood tree also has them.

These caterpillars are tiny, none appear to be larger than about 1/2 inch. They are pale yellow with black heads and two rows of tiny black spots down their backs. They have some long hairs, but are not bushy. It appears most of them have left the tents, but I did manage to snap some photos. I'm attaching one here, but the quality is not good due to the upload limitations. I'm also attaching a link to additional high resolution photos.

Ignore the photo of the green and purple gray hairstreak caterpillar that I asked about a couple of weeks ago.

Also, can anyone tell me what this plant is (you can see it in the other linked photos)? It is very similar to poison sumac except the branches aren't red/purple and the berries are in tiny clusters rather than large bunches. The leaves are in pairs of two up the branch with no top leaf at the end of the branch.

Thanks!

Mary

Image link:

Here is a link that might be useful: Additional High Resolution Photos Here

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Caterpillars are fall webworms, probably the most 'popular' caterpillar on the Gardenweb at the moment.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 11:29PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

While the webs of Fall Webworms can be unsightly they really do not do serious harm to the trees they populate. Most people do more harm to the trees they are in then the Fall Webworms would as they attempt to control them. Like most all leaf eaters you can control these buggers early in their life with applications of Bacillus thuringiensis - Kurstaki and later by knocking holes in the protective web with strong streams of water so the predators can reach them.
Pruning the webs out of trees does more harm to the tree then the webworms will since what is removed will not ever leaf out again while those left on the tree will. Spraying with a sharp stream of water with a pesticide in it is a large waste of money since little of the pesticde actually reaches the target, and contributes large amounts of poison to your environment.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fall Webworms

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 8:12AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Kimmsr, you clearly have no experience with this insect and it's behavior. Snipping the tips from branches that may contain hundred of these munching critters is a GOOD thing. Obviously, we are not talking about 'topping', shearing, hedging, or the removal of major limbs.

(I'm sorry that you appear to have so much trouble with pruning. There are probably classes that you can take in your community. Remember, pruning is an activity that generates new growth.)

Spraying with any kind of chemical is not required for this insect. If the nests can be reached with a pole or stick or a strong stream of water, holes can be punched in the webs so that the large list of predators and parasites can have at 'em. Don't be surprised if you see a lot of bird activity around your shrub after you disturb the nests!

If you have more than your fair share of these fall webworm nests, then the Bacillus thuringiensis-kurstaki can be used, as long as the caterpillars are still very small. Bt for caterpillars can be found at any decent garden supply center. Read and follow all directions, of course.

Sometime over the coming fall or winter, rake up any old mulch under infested trees and shrubs. You might even try to rake into the soil a little. Fall webworms overwinter in little twiggy cocoons in the surface debris or in the very upper layer of the soil. Getting rid of them can be very helpful in preventing future outbreaks.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 11:55AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

There was a small web of these wee buggers in my Black Walnut, the only tree I have they seem to like, and all I did was use the hose to knock the nest apart. The "damage" done by the Webworms is merely cosmetic so pruning the nest out of the tree is not necessary, and you do not need to prune if it is not necessary.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 1:10PM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

kimmsr what is it with you and the last word. Seems like you've always GOT to have it.

Pruning a few small limbs will hurt NOTHING. In fact it will encourage new growth.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 10:03PM
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marmie2(7)

I just wanted to thank you Rhizo_1 for identifying my worms (again). :-)

Before asking I searched several different ways on this forum and didn't see anything like mine. Then today when I was trying to find this post, my first search hit was an identical match from back in June. Oh well. I appreciate your reply.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 5:58PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You are very welcome. They are quite the little pest this season! Caterpillar du jour.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 11:09PM
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