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Black Cherry Trees Vs. Tent Caterpillars

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Our native black cherry, Prunus serotina, is usually defaced this time of year by a large web of silk that houses several hundred leaf-eating Eastern tent caterpillars. If you can reach the web, use a small rake to pull the mass to the ground. Then you can actually stomp on the caterpillars and destroy them. If you don’t, they will march right back up the tree. If you can’t reach the nest, don’t fret, as the tree will produce new leaves and continue photosynthesizing for the rest of the season. Interestingly, this tree is also the larval food source for four butterflies and 26 other moth species, including the interestingly named Tufted Bird Dropping Moth, entomologists must have a sense of humor, so think of this tree as a terrific food source for birds to feed their young.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.