She included a photo that shows what we recognize as a caterpillar. It is a couple inches long, has a dark body with a light stripe running down the middle of its entire back. We can’t distinguish what color it might be or if it has hairs, but the stripe is really prominent, so we will work from there.
We have two ideas of what our reader might be dealing with.
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The first is cutworms. Cutworms are caterpillars, which means they are the larval form of a moth or butterfly. Cutworms vary in color, so they can be difficult to identify. However, they have been known to be particularly destructive towards acacia trees, especially in South Africa.
Our other idea is that her trees are being devoured by eastern tent caterpillars. These caterpillars resemble the creature in the photo that our reader sent in very closely. However, since we can’t see if the creature in the photo has hairs or spines, we can’t say for certain that she has found these rather than cutworms.
Getting rid of caterpillars can be a big task. Our reader should know that trees can generally handle the caterpillars feeding on their leaves, and they will grow new leaves. If our reader is keen on getting rid of these guys, she will need to brush them out of the trees individually and move them to another location. It is best to do this in the evening, because the caterpillars will be in their nests, and it will be easier to locate them. While these caterpillars are not harmful to humans, we understand that our reader doesn’t want them on her trees.
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In summary, our reader is dealing with caterpillars eating her trees. We believe the caterpillars to either be cutworms or eastern tent caterpillars.