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Archive for the ‘Tent Caterpillars!’ Category

Tent caterpillars especially love cherry trees

Just yesterday on my way to work, I noticed some very tiny tent caterpillar nests beginning to form in the cherry trees along the side of the road. They seem to be a little later this spring which fits with the slightly later spring we are experiencing this year. Seeing them reminded me of the blog post I wrote back in early April of 2010 and I thought it would be appropriate to re-run this post to remind folks that NOW is the time to attack these icky, squiggly caterpillars – BEFORE they do major damage to your beautiful landscape trees.

So, here you go (with a few added tips) …

Well, it’s that time of year again!

Tent caterpillars can defoliate a tree very quickly if left unchecked.

Tent caterpillars can defoliate a tree
very quickly if left unchecked.

I saw the tell-tale signs on the way to the nursery yesterday – the beginnings of the familiar, yet dreaded tent caterpillar webs starting to form in the crotches of the small cherries at the side of the road. Today, they’re even bigger! Everyday they will grow … little webs will grow into bigger webs; little caterpillars will grow into big leaf-eating machines crawling over the branches devouring every bit of green foliage on the tree until it looks like winter has returned!

Nasty little critters! I know they must serve some purpose in the greater scheme of things but I sure haven’t figured out what that might be – food for the birds, I suppose. Yes, I’m sure that must be why they exist!

During the day, tent caterpillars venture out of the nest to forage.

During the day, tent caterpillars
venture out of the nest to forage.

Well, what can you do about them? “Knock ’em out while they are small”, Andre always says. It’s the best time and you don’t have to resort to using chemical insecticides.

Wage biological warfare!! When they are small, they can be eradicated with a lovely little bacterium called Bt (short for Bacillus thuringiensis). Bt (also sold under the trade name Dipel) produces a natural insecticide and has been used by organic farmers for years to safely control many insect pests. Just spray it on the foliage and when the caterpillar eats the leaves, they ingest the Bt which produces a toxin that basically dissolves their gut and kills them within a few days – no harm to the environment or beneficial insects!

And … even though it takes a few days for the caterpillars to die, the best part is that they stop eating within a few hours so your trees are saved from defoliation! Good stuff – and environmentally responsible, too!
Look for Bonide Thuricide (BT) Liquid Concentrate or Dipel; they should be right on the shelf of your full service garden store.

Large tent caterpillars consume a tremendous amount of foliage.

Large tent caterpillars consume a
tremendous amount of foliage.

Though Bt works best on the very young caterpillars, all is not lost if you miss this stage and suddenly find that you have the larger caterpillars crawling all over your trees devouring every last leaf they can find. These larger caterpillars can be controlled using Bonide Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew according to the label directions. Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew is a natural but effective, broad-spectrum ORGANIC insect control which is listed for controlling tent caterpillars as well as many other insect pests on both ornamental and edible crops.

NEVER spray any insecticide when trees are in bloom!

Don’t want to spray? Watch this Viette video tip for another interesting way to get rid of tent caterpillars! Along this line, my husband will poke a stick into the web and wind the web, caterpillars and all, up on the end of the stick and then stomp them into the ground! Ahhhhh – revenge is sweet!

A tent caterpillar egg mass encircles the tip of a crabapple branch.

A tent caterpillar egg mass encircles
the tip of a crabapple branch.

Another way to get rid of tent caterpillars is to break their life cycle by destroying their egg masses before they hatch. These egg masses are found encircling the tips of small branches of host trees from July – February. Some of their favorite trees are cherries, crabapples, and apples. Sometimes you can prune off the branch tips containing egg cases but a more effective way to destroy the eggs is to spray the trees thoroughly with a horticultural oil such as Bonide All Seasons Oil to smother and kill the eggs. If you have tent caterpillars this spring, put a reminder in your gardening calendar for a late fall and/or late winter spraying with horticultural oil. This will also help control many other insect pests that overwinter in your garden!
Read more about the benefits of horticultural oil.

So …

Keep an eye peeled for these tent caterpillar nests in your trees and be ready to do battle while the caterpillars are young and vulnerable.

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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Peach totally engulfed by brown rot

Believe it or not, I followed my own advice this weekend!

All Seasons Oil will smother the overwintering egg cases of tent caterpillars.

All Seasons Oil will smother the egg cases of tent caterpillars.

I sprayed my fruit trees with Bonide All Seasons Oil. I have mentioned in many of our February and March newsletters and advised countless garden center customers that a late winter/early spring application of horticultural oil is one of the most important sprays to protect your fruit trees. It’s important because it smothers insect eggs (like tent caterpillar eggs) and overwintering insect pests (like codling moth larvae, mealybugs, and scale) by forming a coating of oil over them. It can also smother fungal spores and reduce the incidence of certain fungal diseases like rust or powdery mildew.

But have I ever sprayed it in our little orchard? No – at least not until this year! If it’s so important, why didn’t I do it? Well, my excuse was that whenever I had “time” to spray, the wind was blowing too hard or it was raining or I didn’t have the spray on hand or I missed the timing or …

Mealybugs cause damage to foliage and fruit.

Mealybugs cause damage to foliage and fruit.

In all honesty, it was more because it was so much trouble to mix up enough spray to cover all the fruit trees. Our little hand sprayer had to be refilled several times by the time we were finished. A few years ago, we got a backpack sprayer that held more and I used it for a while but even that had to be refilled quite a few times to cover all the trees and I never did manage to get that initial spray of horticultural oil on the them.

This year for an early birthday present, we bought ourselves a 16 gallon sprayer that can sit in the trailer we pull behind our mower. Best of all, it has a 12 volt pump that is powered right from the mower battery! Wow! I can tell that this new sprayer is going to revolutionize our fruit growing just like Uncle Bill’s old Troy-Bilt tiller revolutionized my vegetable gardening.

Brown rot ruins my peach crop.

Brown rot ruins most of my peaches before they have a chance to ripen.

.

The sprayer is made to attach to an ATV but Eric built a frame out of treated lumber that holds the tank and keeps it from moving around in the cart. Perfect!

We tried it out with the All Seasons Oil this weekend and it worked like a charm! We made up 9 gallons of spray which was the perfect amount to cover all the trees. So quick and easy!

I’m determined to keep up with the spraying this year so maybe we’ll get some fruit that we won’t have to share with the bugs and diseases!

Brown rot on a plum

Brown rot on a plum

.

At the top of my list is battling brown rot on our peaches. Every year, because I haven’t sprayed a fungicide, we watch as our peaches (and plums) become swallowed up by this dreaded disease. Brown rot is a common fungal disease that affects stone fruits like peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries. It can be devastating to a fruit crop and can destroy most or all of the fruit on a tree in a relatively short period of time.

Mummified peaches hang from one of my peach trees.

Mummified peaches hang from one of my peach trees.

Sanitation around the trees is one of the most important ways to try to reduce the incidence of this disease (and many other fungal diseases that affect fruit trees) because the fungal spores overwinter in plant debris and on mummified fruits that hang on the tree and fall on the ground. Even with careful cleaning and raking, treatment with fungicides is often necessary to help control brown rot especially if the disease has infected your trees in the past. To be most effective, it is very important to begin spraying for brown rot before infection occurs.

More information about brown rot

Black rot beginning to infect grapes.

Black rot beginning to infect a
bunch of grapes.

So … this weekend we’re going to fire up the sprayer again (weather permitting) to spray Bonide Liquid Copper fungicide on the trees and our grapes.

Bonide copper fungicide is a broad range fungicide approved for organic gardening that will help control a host of diseases in our orchard including brown rot on the peaches and plums, black rot on our grapes, and cedar-apple rust which affects our apples every year even though we have planted resistant varieties.

Cedar-apple rust infects some young apples

Cedar-apple rust infects some of
our young apples

.

I really think we’ll be able to keep up with the insects and disease this year! We’re even thinking of getting a two more peach trees and maybe another plum!

Now I’m just hoping that we don’t get a late frost that wipes out the blossoms!

Here’s to a “fruitful” year!

Until Next time – Happy Gardening
and Happy Spring!

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Tent caterpillars can defoliate a tree very quickly if left unchecked.

Well, it’s that time of year again! I saw the tell-tale signs on the way to the nursery yesterday – the beginnings of the familiar, yet dreaded tent caterpillar webs starting to form in the crotches of the small cherries at the side of the road. Today, they’re bigger! Everyday they will grow … little webs will grow into bigger webs; little caterpillars will grow into big leaf-eating machines crawling over the branches devouring every bit of green foliage on the tree until it looks like winter has returned! Nasty little critters! I know they must serve some purpose in the greater scheme of things but I sure haven’t figured out what that might be – food for the birds, I guess. Yes, I’m sure that must be why they exist!

Well, what can you do about them? “Knock ’em out while they are small”, Andre always says. It’s the best time and you don’t have to resort to using chemical insecticides. Wage biological warfare!! When they are small, they can be eradicated with a lovely little bacterium called Bt (short for Bacillus thuringiensis). Bt (also sold under the trade name Dipel) produces a natural insecticide and has been used by organic farmers for years to safely control many insect pests. Just spray it on the foliage and when the caterpillar eats the leaves, they ingest the Bt which produces a toxin that basically dissolves their gut and kills them within a few days – no harm to the environment or beneficial insects! And … even though it takes a few days for the caterpillars to die, the best part is that they stop eating within a few hours so your trees are saved from defoliation! Good stuff – and environmentally responsible, too! Look for Bonide Thuricide (BT) Liquid Concentrate or Dipel; they should be right on the shelf of your full service garden store.

Watch this Viette video tip for another interesting way to get rid of tent caterpillars! Along this line, my husband will poke a stick into the web and wind the web, caterpillars and all, up on the end of the stick and then stomp them into the ground! Ahhhhh – revenge is sweet!

A tent caterpillar egg mass encircles a branch tip of this crabapple tree.

Another way to get rid of tent caterpillars is to break their life cycle by destroying their egg masses before they hatch. These egg masses are found encircling the tips of small branches of host trees from July – February. Some of their favorite trees are cherries, crabapples, and apples. Sometimes you can prune off the branch tips containing egg cases but a more effective way to destroy the eggs is to spray the trees thoroughly with a horticultural oil such as Bonide All Seasons Oil to smother and kill the eggs. If you have tent caterpillars this spring, put a reminder in your gardening calendar for a late fall spraying with horticultural oil. This will also help control many other insect pests that overwinter in your garden! Read more about the benefits of horticultural oil.

Until next time … Happy Gardening!

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