Earlier this month, we received this question: How do I control the black and yellow striped caterpillars that are killing my trees? She didn’t provide a photograph, so all we know about these pesky creatures is what she told us: they have black and yellow stripes. We also don’t know what kind of trees these caterpillars are “killing”. We assume she means eating the foliage of, and not literally killing.
There are many species of caterpillars that eat the foliage of trees. Since we don’t know more about the appearance of the creatures, or what kind of trees they are inhabiting, we can’t say for certain what species they are. We can offer some suggestions about the potential species of these caterpillars, but we won’t be able to confirm an identification without a photograph or more information from our reader!
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Tent caterpillars have vertical yellow and black stripes lining their bodies. There are over 20 species, and they are recognized as pests because they build silk tents in tree nodes, and also defoliate the tree. While the tents and defoliation suggest the caterpillars are doing damage to the tree, their presence rarely actually causes harm to the tree, since it can withstand the stress. Cinnabar caterpillars, on the other hand, have thick black and yellow horizontal stripes. These caterpillars eat Ragwort leaves, but also sometimes eat each other in a cannibalistic manner!
In general, trees that are otherwise healthy can withstand the presence of caterpillars. However, if our reader is still anxious to say goodbye to these creatures, there are some natural solutions. She can hand pick them from the trees and relocate them to another area. She can put up a band around the trunk of the tree that is made of a sticky substance, like the underside of duct tape. This won’t do much to protect a tree that caterpillars are already living in, but it can prevent them from returning or inhabiting it in the first place. She can also introduce natural predators into her yard, like birds or praying mantises. Finally, there are some organic pesticides that don’t kill other beneficial organisms she try out if she desired.
To wrap up, one of our readers asked us about black and yellow caterpillars that kill trees. We offered two potential suggestions of what kind of caterpillar she might be referring to, but there are many other options, as there are a ton of caterpillars that have yellow and black stripes. However, getting rid of caterpillars is usually a similar process despite the species. We have provided some of thees natural solutions!
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