“What kind of worms are these and how do you get rid of them?” asks this reader about the gray and yellow-patterned creatures in the photographs below. “They are ruining my grandmother’s plum tree,” our reader states.
Firstly, we wish to thank our reader for the excellent array of photos she sent in, as a good photo really does help us identify the critters our readers want help with. Secondly, we appreciate that our reader told us what type of tree they were found on, as any bit of context, such as this, is very helpful. Now, when it comes to the identity of these creatures, we believe them to be tent caterpillars. ‘Tent caterpillar’ is actually an umbrella term that refers to a multitude of butterfly and moth caterpillar species. What all of these species have in common is that they infest deciduous trees, procreate at a fast rate, and build tent-like webs in the trees which act as defensive shields against predators and harsh weather conditions.
Now, tent caterpillars will eat leaves on trees, and infestations of them can be quite large, but their presence does not actually cause any long-term damage to the tree. So, in actual fact, these caterpillars are not “ruining” our reader’s grandmother’s plum tree, even though it might seem like it. Of course, that does not mean that our reader and her grandmother will suddenly be fine with these caterpillars living in the tree and spreading their webs. Some things our reader can do to the control infestation is to pick off any roaming caterpillars and webs by hand, as well as remove any eggs she finds (though the eggs are typically laid before winter, and as we are already into spring this might not be possible or relevant anymore), and use ‘sticky tree bands’ and ‘tree tanglefoot pest barriers’ impede the caterpillar’s access to the plums and leaves. All of these methods are suggested by PlanetNatural’s article on tent caterpillars, and our reader can find more recommendations for how to control tent caterpillars infestations on their webpage, as well as links to the two products mentioned previously.
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To conclude, the “worms” that have been infesting our reader’s grandmother’s plum tree are tent caterpillars. These caterpillars are not inherently dangerous to the trees they infest, but we understand that they are a nuisance and are not a welcome sight for our reader and her grandmother. We hope that this article answered our reader’s question to a satisfactory degree and that it proves helpful. We wish her and her grandmother, as well as their plum tree, the very best.