In spring, tree leaves aren’t the only thing breaking out of their shells. After spending the winter in a hideaway, pesky insects also come alive in spring.

That’s the case for tent caterpillars, whose thick, woven webs dim the glow of a tree’s bloom.

Luckily, tent caterpillars are pretty easy to bat off, whether you opt for an insecticide or handy home remedy.

Your Guide to Getting Rid of Spring Webworms in Trees

What are tent worms?

Tent worms, or Eastern tent caterpillars, are furry critters that eat tree leaves and weave large, silky webs around tree branches. You’ll spot them in spring, usually on black cherry, apple or crabapple trees. Sometimes, they’ll go after other fruit trees, too.

Are tent caterpillars harmful to trees?

Tent caterpillars aren't usually a significant threat to healthy, mature trees. They do strip away some of the trees’ leaves and weave unpleasant looking webs, but that’s the worst of their damage.

But, there are two exceptions: black cherry trees and young trees are extremely vulnerable to tent caterpillars. If you spot caterpillars or their spider-like webs, treat these trees right away.

How to Get Rid of Tree Worms

Getting rid of tent caterpillars is simple. Follow the steps below to say farewell to these buggers!

  1. Remove the webs by hand, then kill the tent worms with dish soap. If you only have a couple of tents, pull the webs off the branches. Shoot for early morning or evening when the caterpillars are inside their webs. If you don’t want to touch them, wrap the webs around a broomstick. Then, pop them into a bucket filled with water and dish soap.
  2. Get serious. For large infestations that aren’t practical to take down by hand, an insecticide with Bacillus thuringiensis or “Bt” is very effective. Follow the package instructions carefully. Or phone your local arborist and have them handle this.
  3. Get rid of caterpillar eggs in winter. In winter, check to see if the caterpillars laid eggs, which will 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.