My husband and I recently moved onto a 5 acre property with 4 fruittrees on it. We are brand new to permaculture and while we love everything we are learning about it, we are also a bit overwhelmed with all the information. Today I found tent caterpillars (I assume by the way they built their "nests") in more places than I'd like all over our trees. After all, I painstakingly went from branch to branch a few weeks ago scraping away every egg nest I could find. I know that "the problem is the solution" and that I need to get plants growing under the trees that will attract predatory birds/insects and make the tees healthier, but what are my short-term options? Is there anything natural I can do to get rid these nasties before they get bigger?
In early morning or in the evening when most caterpillars are in the nest, prune infested branches and burn or crush the nests or put them deeply inside a hot compost pile.
Another way to remove tents filled with caterpillars from branches is by winding them onto a broomstick with nails projecting from it.
In winter, remove egg masses from bare branches; attract native parasitic flies and wasps by growing small-flowered herbs, such as catnip, and wildflowers, such as Queen-Anne's lace.
Do not destroy wandering caterpillars with white eggs or cocoons attached to their backs; they are hosts for native parasites.
last resort: Spray BTK weekly while larvae are small. (this is an organic spray)
Thank you for that information. I had done a small amount of reading before posting and came across some of the exact information so it is comforting to hear it recommended. It gives me more confidence to try those methods. I will see if I can fined Bt locally.
For what it's worth, they shouldn't damage your veggie garden crops. They mostly defoliate trees, which just grow leaves again the same season. We find it ugly, and gross for picnics when they crawl all over you and your blankets, that's it really. Though I do tire of finding cocoons everywhere. Everywhere.
It's also encouraging to know that they go in cycles. You'll see them for a few years and then the paracites will lower their numbers. It's about a decade cycle with only 3 years of high population. They also don't often nest on the same site for about a decade, so it should't be an annual plague. At least that's what the biologists around here tell us. (BC, Canada)
tent caterpillars come in cycles. We had tons of them 5 years ago, and have barely had any since. I started seeing some egg cases this winter, so they may be rebounding. I doubt you will have this problem every year. I think picking them out of 4 trees this year is a pretty manageable situation.
Twisted Tree Farm and Nursery
Just put the cards in their christmas stocking and PRESTO! They get it now! It's like you're the harry potter of permaculture. richsoil.com/cards