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Summer Tents

July 11, 2012

This post has nothing to do with camping tents…but rather pest management of a particularly notorious little critter. This year the Western tent caterpillar (Malacosoma californicum) population explosion was the talk of Gabriola Island. The chaos has subsided, the affected trees are recovering, and now swallows and bats are feasting on big fat tent moths that have begun to emerge.

At the weed patch we’re on early patrol for next years’ tent fiasco. Our Japanese heartnut trees have fresh egg sacks. Each egg sack looks like shiny grey gum wrapped around a succulent young branch. When you flip the hard shell with your fingernail, hundreds of egg masses are revealed. The female western tent caterpillar moths are laying next years’ batch of caterpillars covered in spumaline – a weatherproof coating she secretes to keep the eggs from drying out or freezing. I like flicking these egg masses off for the chickens who seem to enjoy the delicacy. A bit of time spent patrolling for these egg sacks now will save us a lot of headaches next spring!

Hundreds of Western tent caterpillar eggs waiting for next spring!

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3 Comments
  1. Eewww..you’re right – they do like like teeth when you pry the “lips” open!!

    Riley – If your orchard was infested with tent caterpillars this year chances are the moths will lay eggs elsewhere (like in your neighbours succulant trees!). From what little I know about the moth, she will lay eggs in trees that are healthy, vibrant and lush with vegetation to support the voracious little ones next spring. It’s worth a closer inspection anyway.

  2. Anonymous permalink

    The one picture of the eggs looks like silver lips with teeth (eggs are the “teeth”). I will check my apple trees. Thank you for the tip

  3. Riley permalink

    I had no idea this is what tent caterpillar eggs looked like! I’ll be busy checking my orchard this summer. We were infested this spring and the trees haven’t quite bounced back.

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