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Tent caterpillars in the orchard

Tent caterpillar egg massI noticed some shiny egg masses wrapped around the twigs of our biggest peach tree this winter, but I left them in place since I didn't know what they were.  Sunday, tiny tent caterpillar webs began radiating out from the egg masses.  Bad news!

If you live east of the Rockies, you've probably seen the tent caterpillar before, even though you may not have known what it is.  The caterpillars live inside a spiderweb-like tent of white silk that can reach about a foot in length, easily visible around the limbs of wild black cherries as you drive down the highway.  Tent caterpillars are voracious eaters and can defoliate entire trees in a season.
Young tent caterpillars
Although wild black cherries are their favorite food, tent caterpillars enjoy pretty much every fruit tree you'd plant in your yard.  They like apples, pears, cherries, plums, and peaches.  Large orchards spray chemicals to kill tent caterpillars, but on the backyard scale they're extremely easy to pick off the branch either in the egg stage or soon after the caterpillars hatch.  And our hens want you to know that a web full of tiny caterpillars is a very tasty treat.

Our hens also enjoy our homemade chicken waterer, full of POOP-free water.


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I'm wondering if anyone has tried harvesting tent caterpillar silk to spin? I don't have any firsthand knowledge of what the tents are like. What do you think?
Comment by Jana Thu Sep 8 11:27:25 2011
That is such an intriguing question, and I'm afraid I don't really have an answer. I know what tent caterpillar silk is like, but have never seen silkworms in action, so can't compare the two.
Comment by anna Thu Sep 8 15:25:42 2011

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime