Wednesday, March 7, 2012

apple trees and caterpillars

The apple trees have received their seasonal pruning and the buds are swelling.  It's such a joy to behold the newly pruned shape of the apple trees.  

We're expecting a monumental caterpillar year on Mayne Island this year.  Everybody's talking about it.  It's cyclical.  Every 7 or 8 years the caterpillar population goes wild.   Dave (he does the pruning for me) was picking off lots of egg cases from the branches as he pruned.
The tent caterpillars around here love apple trees.  They also love the alders that grow outside the garden fence and surround the garden.  They love the cherry tree and the currant and gooseberry bushes too...roses too....sigh.....

I began my pest control efforts last summer, picking off the egg masses that had just recently been deposited by the moths.  The cases are so interesting.  Really! styrofoam on the outside.  Once you peel it off from the branch, you can see all the little round eggs on the inside that are just waiting for the following May and the sun's warmth so they can hatch and devour the tree leaves.
It's a satisfying feeling to peel those suckers off a branch.  I became slightly obsessed with collecting up big piles of egg masses.  lol.

It was summertime and so there were quite a few yellow jacket wasps around and it took them no time to find my collections....they were interested in dinner!  It was amazing to watch them chow down....(they actually started dragging pieces away from the pile!!)  wow.

This is what the egg mass looks like when on the branch in the summer time...looks like this one's on one of the jostaberry bushes.

Oh. oh.  This one got away on me last summer.  When an egg mass is left on the tree and the eggs hatch, this is what happens and it's best to remove the tent as soon as you see it....before the wrigglies get this big...yuck!

It's much easier to remove the eggs in the leaves and fruit on the tree to get in your way and the rainy season softens them so they come off the branch much easier.

They look quite different after the winter rains, you can really see all the little eggs on the outside....

This one looks like some of the eggs are gone...a little birdy has been feeding, perhaps?  I don't know, I wonder....
Anyway, I noticed that a few recent visitors to the garden (all who live on Mayne Island) didn't know about these caterpillar egg sacks....and were so interested to learn.  I remember how happy I was when I learned about them back when I first moved here so I hope this will be helpful to really is so much easier to take as many of these off now.  For me, the wielding of loppers while on ladder to cut tented branches is a garden misery so the fewer of those adventures I have, the better...

Dreaming of APPLES!  ....and hoping for a  good harvest this year!


  1. Thank you for the information C. didn't know it and find it very hepful.
    I would like to subscribe to the blog not to miss your posts but i can't find the gadget!

  2. I found a crawling tent this morning on my favorite Gravenstein tree, and the cherry next to it. Off they came!

    Thanks to your pictures I know what to look for this year.
    Mike on the Olympic Peninsula

  3. Thanks, I found these on the branches of my dwarf tree and did a search to find out what they were. Took a while to find your post, and it certainly looks like this! Well disguised, just look like a swelling on the branch. In the meantime, I also found out what ladybug eggs look like, so if I see those I will definitely keep them.