January 28, 2017
I have a flowering cherry tree that we planted several years ago. It seems to get plagued by caterpillars every year in the spring. While they haven't killed the tree, it looks absolutely awful for the rest of the season. Is there some type of preventative treatment that I can do now to keep them off this year or is it a fact of life that I have to live with?
It sounds to me like you have eastern tent caterpillars. They often have their preferred tree hosts, and try to visit annually. The eastern tent caterpillars are one of those "here today, gone tomorrow" type of insects. When they are around, they are out in large numbers, but there life cycle is relatively short. They are quite the nuisance while they are here but if they are defoliating a young tree over and over again, that can weaken the tree and lead to more problems. Check your trees now for any overwintering egg masses. If they have been in the same tree year after year, chances are they laid some eggs there as well. Typically the masses are covered with a shiny, black varnish-like material and encircle branches that are about pencil-size or smaller in diameter. Removing the egg masses can definitely help. Then, watch the tree this spring. While I would not recommend preventative sprays, you can spray with an insecticide such as BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) as soon as you see the pests. You can also use a preventative barrier around the trunk of the tree to prevent any more from climbing up. Lightly wrap a band around the trunk with a tree wrap coated in Vaseline or a sticky substance called Tanglefoot, or similar sticky substance. You don't want to put the substance directly on the bark, because once the insects are gone, you can remove the wrap and throw it away without having everything stuck to the base of the tree.
I live at Pendleton, Ar. (10 miles from Dumas). I was wondering if we can raise cherry trees here.
Cherry trees do grow in Arkansas, but they are a bit difficult to grow in our climate, and often birds get more of the fruit than the grower. Tart cherries are a bit easier to grow in Arkansas, (especially south Arkansas) than the sweet cherries. The sweet cherries are more prone to diseases and cracking, plus are less tolerant of heat and humidity. The new cultivars of tart cherries are all self-fruitful, so you only need one tree to have a crop. Choose a variety that is small enough to allow for protective bird netting to keep birds at bay.
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