Home Plants Travel Entertaining Cooking Books Columns Etc.

OPINION | JANET CARSON: Eastern tent caterpillars are camping in Arkansas trees right about now

by Janet B. Carson April 29, 2023 at 1:32 a.m.
The larva of the eastern tent caterpillar crawls around during the day, eating leaves, but it returns to its tent at night. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janest B. Carson)

MAY 2023

Weather has definitely been a topic for Arkansans this year. From the winter deep freeze damage to horrific tornadoes and storms — and a cooler and wetter April — there is a lot to talk about.

 ◼️ Continue to take inventory of the plants in your garden. Storm-damaged trees will need to be assessed for long-term stability. Winter-damaged plants may be sprouting from the root system or gradually putting on new top growth. Many plants will need some extra structural pruning. Patience is still required, and recovery will not be quick in some cases.

◼️ When spring-blooming plants have finished flowering (or in some cases, putting on new growth without flowers) prune as needed. If you see winter damage and all the new growth is on the top of the plants, you might want to do some selective thinning of branches, staggering the heights to get more foliage to grow lower down and thicken up your shrubs. Try to prune any spring-blooming plants by the first of June to allow recovery time. A light application of fertilizer will also help.

◼️ If you have holes in your landscape while you wait on plants to rebound, consider filling them with summer tropicals, houseplants or annuals. If you need to replace shrubs, consider your options and perhaps try something new.

◼️ Summer annuals can all be planted now, and tropical flowering and foliage plants can safely move outdoors.

◼️ If you are moving plants from indoors outside, gradually expose the plants to direct sunlight so they don't sunburn.

◼️ Surprisingly, many pansies did recover and are blooming nicely now, but start mixing in summer annuals. The cooler weather helps cool-season annuals, but once warm weather appears you want something to take their place. New plants are arriving daily at nurseries and garden centers, so start planting.

◼️ The cooler weather we have had in April has delayed planting in many gardens. Harvest season is upon us for the cool season crops. If temperatures begin to heat up quickly, you might find that some of the cool weather lovers begin to bolt or go to seed.

◼️ Broccoli should be harvested in a tight flower head stage. If you see yellow, the plant is getting past its prime. As you harvest, remove the plants to make room for summer vegetables. There is still plenty of time to plant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, as well as winter squashes, watermelons, and cantaloupes.

◼️ Insects and diseases are starting to kick in, so monitor your garden on a regular basis.

◼️ Many of our spring-flowering bulbs started blooming earlier than normal this year. If they have had six weeks of green growth after flowering, it is safe to cut back their foliage. How well your spring bulbs grow during the six to eight weeks of growth following bloom determines how well they will bloom next spring.

◼️ As spring bulbs are fading, it is time to plant the summer bulbs. It is safe to plant caladiums, elephant ears, cannas, gladiolas and more. Once these bulbs hit warm soil, they will grow, so don't think you are too late. They can be planted into next month and still give you plenty of color and interest. There are varieties for sun and for shade, so choose wisely. You can buy the bulbs or plants.


Webs are appearing in many small trees around Arkansas. For a few weeks we will have the marching of the eastern tent caterpillars.

They look much worse than they really are, but they are a nuisance and can make a mess.

The larvae gather at a fork in the tree and build a web or "tent." They use the tent as their nightly lodging and emerge on non-rainy days to feed. The tent enlarges as the caterpillars eat.

If you can reach the tents, pull them down on a cloudy day or at dusk when the caterpillars have gathered for the night, and destroy them.

Luckily for us, they have a short life span and don't make more than one generation a year, unlike their cousin the fall webworm, which will start appearing in a month or so and can produce several generations each season.

Read Janet Carson's blog at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet.

  photo  Eastern tent caterpillars build webs or "tents" in the forks of trees in the spring; they sleep in the tents by night and emerge in the day to eat. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)

Print Headline: Breaking ground


Sponsor Content