How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Tent caterpillars—Malacosoma spp.

Adult tent caterpillars are hairy, medium-size, day-flying moths, usually dull brown, yellow, or gray in color.

Identification of species | Life cycle


Tent caterpillars feed on deciduous trees and shrubs throughout the U.S. Depending on the species, their hosts include ash, birch, fruit and nut trees, madrone, oak, poplar, redbud, toyon, and willow. Larvae form silken webs on foliage. They forage on foliage but do not eat leaf veins.


Inspect plants regularly and when larvae are young, prune out tents or clip and dispose of infested branches if this can be done without cutting major limbs. On heavy infestations, Bacillus thuringiensis or spinosad can be applied if high-pressure spray equipment is used so that insecticide penetrates any webbing.

Forest tent caterpillar larva
Forest tent caterpillar larva

Western tent caterpillar larvae and damage
Western tent caterpillar larvae and damage

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
All contents copyright © 2016 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

For noncommercial purposes only, any Web site may link directly to this page. FOR ALL OTHER USES or more information, read Legal Notices. Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual solutions to specific pest problems. See our Home page, or in the U.S., contact your local Cooperative Extension office for assistance.

Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Accessibility   /PMG/GARDEN/FRUIT/PESTS/tentcater.html revised: June 24, 2016. Contact webmaster.