The city of Cold Lake is trying to avoid using chemicals in dealing with the tent caterpillar problem many residents have been concerned with.
This is due to the fact that the most effective chemical solutions involve pesticides that are non-selective, which would result in the destruction of many other species.
Members of the public may have also noticed an increase in the population of what is commonly referred to as the “house fly” or “friendly fly.” This species is one of the tent caterpillars’ natural predators and the sudden increase in their population often signals the end of the tent caterpillar cycle.
The city has released a fact sheet about Caterpillars:
• They are cyclical. This means that they will not be around forever. The caterpillars are currently in the peak of their 7 year cycle and will decrease in numbers over the next couple of years until they are virtually unnoticeable in quantity.
• While aesthetically displeasing, the tent caterpillar will not actually kill trees. These pests do cause a fair amount of defoliation which may leave the tree in a weakened state, but the majority of affected trees can recover.
• The Tent Caterpillar completes is larvae stage around the middle of June to beginning of July. At this point they will cocoon, turn into moths, lay their eggs and die. By the end of July their cycle will be completed until the following spring.
The city has also provided some tips for what you can do.
• A simple homemade pesticide can be used that is safe for the tree and environmentally friendly when mixed and applied properly:
1. Mix 2 tbsp of original dawn soap and 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a 1 L spray bottle with warm water.
2. Spray liberally directly on caterpillars, this mixture prevents oxygen intake through the skin. The best time to do this is early morning when they are still grouped together. Try not to spray the leaves if possible as it may cause scorching when combined with the sun.
• During the winter months, be on the lookout for Tent Caterpillar egg masses. These can be pruned off your tree and disposed of with your household waste. A tree free of egg masses will likely be free of caterpillars the following spring.