How to Get Rid of Tent Caterpillars with Dawn Soap?

Having a lovely garden that you can spend time in is always a good idea. If you are lucky enough to live in a good area, you might even get a few fruit trees to make the garden more beautiful. The smells and the views will be irreplaceable – but what happens if something were to threaten the garden?

Many larvae can attack a garden. Some might not be that dangerous to the plants and fruit trees, but others can be pretty dangerous. In that latter group, you will find tent worms or tent caterpillars. These larvae are rather detrimental to tree leaves and tree trunks.

If you see such caterpillars infect your garden, you must get rid of them as soon as possible. But do not worry – you can use many different things to remove them, including dawn soap! So, if you want to learn more about these caterpillars and the best ways to get rid of them, stay tuned for this guide.


Caterpillars in the nature

How to Get Rid of Tent Caterpillars Naturally? [Step-By-Step]

 There are various kinds of tent caterpillars. There are the eastern tent caterpillars, forest tent caterpillars, western tent caterpillars, and several other types. How you tell them apart from other caterpillars is thanks to their hairy spines and the little white marks that they have on their backs. They are also quite long – each is around 5cm!

So, let’s say you have found some tent caterpillars around your backyard. What can you do to get rid of them?

There is no need for worry as tent caterpillars are easy to get rid of. You can even do that using some natural ingredients or things you have at home. If the caterpillars are more stubborn than usual, you can also use some chemicals to get them to leave. Here is a list of all the things you can use to get rid of tent caterpillars: 

Step 1 – Remove tent caterpillars by hand

One of the natural ways to get rid of tent caterpillars is to remove them using a stick. It can be any stick you find around your yard. Make sure it is long enough for you to get the entire web of caterpillars and eggs without making them touch your hand.

You will see egg masses and entire webs of these larvae on the infected trees. Go over those areas with the stick and try to get as much web on the stick as possible. Once you do that, you will need to find a container or something similar that you can put the caterpillars in.

To learn where and how you can dispose of the caterpillars, go right into the next section!

Step 2 - Remove tent caterpillars with soapy water

Since caterpillars congregate, you can remove most of them with one try. As you remove them from the tree using the stick, have a bucket or container ready. In the container, you should put some warm water and dish soap. You should use Dawn soap as it is very effective.

Then, put the caterpillars right into the water and leave them there. Since they breathe from their body, the soapy water will make them unable to live, and they will eventually die. It does not sound that pleasant, but it is what you have to do to protect your garden.

Step 3 - Remove tent caterpillars with oils

Do not like the previous two methods. You can always try to remove tent caterpillars using neem or vegetable oil. Both work great because they prevent caterpillars from breathing, making them die. Here is how you can use the oils.

For both types of oil, you will need a spray bottle. Mix 2 tablespoons of the oil with 1 tablespoon of dish soap. I would recommend using dawn soap again. To that mixture, add 1 liter of water and mix everything up.

Then, go to your yard and spray the mixture all over the caterpillars. You will find that they will be removed from the trees very fast, but the tree trunk will not suffer at all.

Step 4 - Remove tent caterpillars with pesticide

There are various types of pesticide sprays that you can use. You can even use bio-insecticides that you can spray all over the caterpillars. These chemicals might be your best choice if you dislike any natural options.

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But remember that these are not quite safe for you or the surroundings. So, when spraying them, ensure you do not get any mixtures on yourself. The same goes for fruits on trees – for things like apple trees, it is better to go with a natural solution. That way, you will not compromise the actual fruit.

Step 5 - Remove tent caterpillars with insects or animals

As a final option, I want to tell you that you can also remove these annoying caterpillars with parasitic wasps, other insects, and animals.

If you want to remove them with the wasps, get some wasps and scatter them all over your yard. Then, also release a few birds around. They will see the caterpillars as food and eat them, relieving you from the burden of worrying about them. So, it is a win-win situation for everyone!

caterpillar eggs

How Do I Get Rid of Tent Caterpillar Eggs?

Tent caterpillars tend to lay eggs during spring. Each egg mass contains anywhere from 200 to 300 eggs, so if you do not remove it in time, you will have a lot of trouble.

The young caterpillars will hatch from late spring to summer and immediately start feeding on your garden plants. These are some hungry larvae, so do not put it past them not to feed.

If you want to remove the caterpillars as soon as possible, put some beneficial insects in your garden and let them feed on the caterpillar eggs. Another option would be for you to remove the masses with a stick before they even hatch. That would be a sure way to get rid of them before turning into larger caterpillars.

How Long Do Tent Caterpillars Hang Around?

As long as you have good vegetation around your yard, you can have many tent caterpillars lurking. They are not that picky about what they eat. It can be trunks of apple trees, ornamental shrubs, or deciduous trees. The forest tent caterpillars can feed on all types of trees you can find in the forests.

It would be best if you prevent tent caterpillars from coming to your yard from the beginning. If they infect your trees, it can take years to leave them. A life cycle of an eastern tent caterpillar or western tent caterpillar can be anywhere from 2 or 3 years to 10+ years. It all depends on the conditions that they live in.

Removing the tent caterpillars from your yard does not take a lot. Even though your only option is killing tent caterpillars instead of removing them, this is something that needs to be done. So, follow the advice above to remove all tent worms and the tent worm nests.

Do Tent Caterpillars Turn into Butterflies?

Eliminating tent caterpillars would be difficult for many people if these caterpillars were to transform into butterflies. Since the tent caterpillar resembles the larvae that butterflies develop from, you might think that the tent caterpillar will also develop into a butterfly one day.

This is not so. All caterpillars are not the same, even though they look the same. Some can turn into butterflies, but others turn into moths. As for the tent caterpillar, I must inform you that it will turn into a moth if you keep it around long enough.

Keeping them is not the best idea. This is because the female moths can lay a lot of eggs – sometimes, they can lay up to 1000 eggs! These eggs will eventually turn into caterpillars that will kill your plants.

So, I recommend that you do a thorough scanning of your yard in early spring. Use one of the above extraction methods for every egg mass you find. It would be best to use some natural methods as they will not kill or compromise the trunk and tree branches that bear the caterpillars!


Thank you for sticking with me through this guide and learning all about tent caterpillars. Remember that these caterpillars can infect your garden during spring or summer, but there are some simple ways to get rid of them. For example, use dawn soap if you want them to go away as soon as possible!

Did you try removing these pesky caterpillars using some of the methods mentioned above? Did you find the methods effective, or do you know any other, more effective methods? Let me know all about your experience in the comments below!

Andrew Mullen

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