Yesterday I posted these pictures for Earth Day. I have seen these webs many times each year and wondered about them. Did they harm the tree that they were attached to? We had an experience with bag worms, when my two older kids were in school. We found the bag along the road and brought it in the car so one of them could take it for show and tell. I don't remember whether the worms came out in our car or the classroom, but I learned a lesson..not to bring them into the house.Audra and I found this web on a chokecherry tree that had taken root along her fence. We have a few chokecherry trees in the woods and I find little seedlings everywhere. I am forever pulling them out. She asked questions that I couldn't answer, so I came in and googled for information and this is what I found.
To the uninitiated, this web mass evokes thoughts of spiders and sends many straight to the garden center at the hardware store to arm themselves with pesticides and heavy gloves.
The fear is unwarranted.
The Eastern tent caterpillar is merely making itself a screened-in porch where it will munch on leaves to “carb-up” before pupating into its moth form.
Trouble is it prefers many homeowners’ most loved trees on their property. The white, silken tents are popping up in the branch crotches of cherry, crab apple, and apple trees.
These caterpillars can sometimes be found on ash, birch, blackgum, willow, witchhazel, maple, oaks, poplar, peach and plum trees, although cherry trees are their preferred place to set up camp.
Daring explorers can poke inside to see this caterpillar with its long brown hairs, and white stripe on the back bordered by yellow-brown and black lines. You’ll notice too the blue and black spots on the sides of the little caterpillars.
There is only one generation (egg- caterpillar- pupa- adult) per year.
Each summer, the adult female moth will lay 100 to 300 eggs in a dark brown varnish-like egg mass around a small twig, probably in June or July. The caterpillars don’t hatch from the eggs until the following spring, typically in March/April when the cherry buds are breaking.
After hatching, the caterpillars collectively make the tent that we notice this time of year. They’ll begin feeding on the newly emerging leaves inside their tent.
After several weeks to a month, the fully-grown caterpillars will leave the nest for a final time to find a protected place to make their cocoons (pupate).
In early summer, the light brown adult moths emerge from the cocoons (May/July). After mating, the female will lay eggs and the cycle will begin again.
There is little to no damage to the trees since they’ll simply replace the leaves the caterpillars ate. If the homeowner finds the webs offensive or annoying, the tent can be destroyed with a stick. But that isn’t necessary; the webs will be gone long before Halloween.
I find things like this very interesting. I was always the kid with a jar of bugs...combing the fields near our home looking for insects, snakes, gophers, chipmunks, salamanders etc to investigate. The day we got our set of encyclopedias was one of the best days of my youth. Before the days of computers, we had to look things up in books from the library. Now I had these books in my own home... to look things up and learn about nature. We didn't have a car in those days, so my summers were spent around where I lived. Summer went on for days...days where I could just be a kid and follow my interests. I would find an ant hill and sit and watch it for hours it seemed. We all searched for four leafed clovers. Some of my girlfriends weren't so crazy about my interests though. Most of them were afraid of what I collected in jars. To tell you the truth...I sort of got a kick out of scaring them .