Thunderhead Pine Being Eaten By Light Green Caterpillars

Filed Under: Trees, Insects · Keywords: thunderhead pine, caterpillars, web · 1036 Views
Our thunderhead pine looked great in the spring with good candle growth and pine cones. As the summer progressed, the north side of the tree seemed to dry and the needles turned brown and started to drop. Tonight I took a close look and there was a bunch of green caterpillars eating the needles near the top of the tree and munching the needles down to nubs. There was also a web spun between two or three branches that was covered with the caterpillar droppings which were light in color. Do tent caterpillars attack pines? And can the tree be saved?


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Answer #1 · Maple Tree's Answer · Hi Carol-This could be the Pine Sawfly larvae or the Tent Caterpillar. Being green in color I'm thinking these may be the Pine sawfly. Most sawflies have a black, dark brown, or red head.They will normally start by defoliating the crown or the upper half of the tree first then work their way down to lower growth if infestation is heavy. If controlled soon enough the limbs may sprout new growth and fill back in. You don't want to prune off any browning limbs at this time as new growth may not sprout from inner wood that was not green with foliage. The Tent Caterpillar is normally a darker brown or black which can have several different colored strips. This caterpillar is normally fuzzy looking where as the Sawfly caterpillar or larvae is smooth or has very little to no hairs. The Tent caterpillar does construct a tent looking affair they use to retreat back to after feeding or temperatures cool down. They need to keep a certain body temperature which they can do by moving throughout aeas of the tent which is usually located where they get the warm morning sun. There are several products you can use to kill or control these insects. My first choice would be Sevin (carbaryl) or Bayer Advanced Garden Insect killer. There are several other pesticides available that your local quality nursery or garden center can help you with. Be sure to follow the product mixing and application instructions as noted on the particular product labels. It would help if you could upload a picture of the caterpillar you are seeing. Above this and to the right of your name below your question you will see where you can upload any picture you have saved on your computer. Normally by this time of year the adult moths or fly are emerging from cocoons and are no longer in the caterpillar or larvae state but of course location and climate wil determine when different stages of their life cycle occurs. I uploaded a few pictures of the Saw fly larvae and the Tent Caterpillar for you to see. Let me know if you believe one of these is what you are seeing. The tree most likely will survive but the amount of damage will determine how much of the foliage will grow and fill back in.)


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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
There are several types of caterpillars that can infest then pine. Different tent caterpillars or pine webworms may need to be controlled differently. If you have a picture of the caterpillar it may help to identify it. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or Sevin can be used to treat most pines to kill these caterpillars. Any of the tents if reachable can be torn apart and caterpillars dropped in a soap solution that will kill them.

6 years ago ·
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