What Makes Webs in Trees: Webworm vs. Tent Caterpillar

One day, your tree looks completely normal. Then the next, it’s draped in creepy-looking webs. Why is that?

That, friends, is what happens when fall webworms or Eastern tent caterpillars pay a visit. They spin showy nets that sort of make it look like a tree is covered in spider webs.

Read below for more about these web-making caterpillars, including what trees they’re drawn to and how to deal with them.

Webworm vs Eastern Tent Caterpillar

These pests are often mistaken for each other, but a few key distinctions set them apart.

What’s the difference between Eastern Tent Caterpillars and fall webworms?

There are three big differences between these pests:

  1. Eastern tent caterpillars are sometimes referred to as spring webworms because they spin their webs and do their feeding during springtime. Fall webworms, on the other hand, feed on trees in (you guessed it!) the fall season.
  2. Fall webworms have very thin, loosely woven webs; almost like tulle. Eastern tent caterpillar webs have a much more thick, cottony texture.
  3. You’ll find Eastern tent caterpillar webs in tree “pockets” meaning, where two branches connect, or where a branch connects to the trunk. But fall webworms spin their webs at the very tip of branches.

These caterpillars also prefer to feed on different trees.

Fall webworms feed on more than 100 tree species, but the most common targets are:

  • Wild Cherry
  • Pecan
  • Black Walnut
  • Persimmon
  • Mulberry
  • Sweetgum

If you live in Texas, fall webworms favor:

And, Eastern tent caterpillars gravitate toward:

  • Wild Cherry
  • Apple
  • Crabapple
  • Ash
  • Maple

How to get rid of webworms or Eastern tent caterpillars

It’s worth noting that these pests typically don’t cause much harm to trees. At most, trees will lose a chunk of leaves, but they won’t experience any other side effects.

That said, if you want to get rid of big webs in trees just because they look unpleasant, here’s what to do:

  • Remove the webs by hand and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. Make sure the caterpillars are inside the web too. If you do not want to touch the web, wrap it around a broomstick or rake. For your safety, we do not recommend climbing the tree to get those hard to reach webs. Please call your local arborist for help.

Want to get ahead of other tree problems? Here are common tree pests to look out for this spring.

How to prevent Eastern tent caterpillars or webworms

The best way to prevent these pests from spinning their webs? Beat them to the punch.

For tent caterpillar control, check to see if the insect laid eggs in winter. They look like shiny, reddish-brown bulbs on tree branches. You can try to scrape them off, and if that doesn’t work, prune off the branches. Do the same for fall webworm eggs in summer. The egg masses are discreet green clumps on the bottom of tree leaves.

How to manage a tree infestation outbreak

If it feels like tree worms and webs are out of your control, Davey arborists are here to help.

Need help managing your infested trees? Schedule a free consultation with your Davey arborist.

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