It sounds like the title of a really bad B-movie, but the Michigan DNR is warning that forest tent caterpillars have returned and are making a nuisance of themselves across the state. They eat leaves from sugar maple, aspen and oak trees and leave small strands of webbing as they go.

The insects are native to Michigan. Every 10 to 15 years they are responsible for widespread outbreaks in our region. The most recent outbreaks peaked in 2002 and 2010, so it makes sense that in 2018 we are seeing another round of it. They’ve been spotted across the Lower Peninsula and in the eastern Upper Peninsula. The outbreaks usually last two or three years.

"An infestation of forest tent caterpillars rarely is fatal unless a tree has other stresses. The larvae begin feeding on new leaves in spring, and can strip the leaves from a tree. Its impact is minimal, but everybody sees the tents from alongside the road.” - Scott Lint -Forest Health Specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Resources Division.

Homeowners with heavily defoliated trees are advised to give those trees at least one inch of water per week during the growing season. Applying a slow-release tree fertilizer in the fall also will help trees recover quickly and prepare them for any defoliation that might occur next summer.

Learn more about caterpillars and other insects that threaten Michigan’s trees HERE.