UPDATED Wednesday, April 25, 2012--4:15p.m.
MADISON--The sight of them may make you squirm,
but aside from the ick factor, these guys aren't as worrisome as you might think. In fact, one big thing about the Eastern Tent Caterpillar is that they can be mistaken for Gypsy Moths--which D-N-R officials do want people looking out for. "Basically it's a leaf feeder, so it's defoliating the tree," said Mark Guthmiller, a forest health specialist for the Wisconsin DNR. "Generally not a big concern, we're not overly concerned about Eastern Tent Caterpillar."
Guthmiller said the caterpillars can show up in high numbers on trees--and trees can be stressed by the defoliation. You can identify them by the dense tents they build. Guthmiller said trees can die from them, but says it's a stacking of various stressors that play into that situation. "In general these trees, a big tree like this this one's not going to be harmed by one tent," he said. "If you lose more than half of that foliage on the tree then it's putting a stress, the trees may re-leaf out which uses up starch reserves."
Guthmiller said they like fruit trees--so things like wild plums, apples and crab apples.
And if you want to get rid of them, he said there is a pretty simple way to do so:"A lot of people want to prune them off or burn them and both of those will cause more damage than what the caterpillars are doing themselves," he explained. He suggested throwing on a pair of gloves and working the tent out of the tree."You can just peel them off," he said. "Have a bucket handy that you just grab and throw them into a bucket of soapy water, let them sit overnight and they'll drown basically."
If the thought of pulling the tents out makes you a little queasy, Guthmiller said another option is to tear a hole in the tent and then apply some insecticidal soap.
Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2012 --- 7:05 a.m.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- State wildlife officials are urging people to be on the look-out for eastern tent caterpillars.
The creatures produce thick, white tents or webs in trees and their larvae consume leaves. The Department of Natural Resources says the caterpillars are already active in southern and central Wisconsin thanks to the unusually warm spring.
DNR officials say people should kill the creatures when they find them. People should scrape the caterpillars and their tents into buckets of soapy water during the evening after most of them have returned to their tents. The next morning they should discard the soaked tent and dead caterpillars.
People also can tear up the tents with sticks and spray the area with insecticidal soap. They can spray leaves around the tent with insecticide, too.
Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.