How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Pest identification and confirmation—Tent caterpillar

There are several species of tent caterpillars, which belong to the family Lasiocampidae.

Western tent caterpillar, Malacosoma californicum, larvae are reddish brown with some blue spots and are covered with tufts of orange to white hairs. They spin large silken webs in which the larvae do most of the feeding.

The Pacific tent caterpillar, M. constrictum, looks very similar to M. californicum, except more blue is visible and the larvae usually feed only on oaks. Pacific tent caterpillars produce small tents a few inches wide. Larvae feed openly in groups when they are young and usually enter the tent only to molt.

The forest tent caterpillar, M. disstria, occurs throughout the U.S. Larvae are mostly dark blue, with wavy reddish brown lines and distinct white, keyhole-shaped markings down the back. Larvae feed in groups without making any webbing.

Western tent caterpillar larva
Western tent caterpillar larva

Group feeding of tent caterpillars
Group feeding of tent caterpillars


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