What Spider Builds Webs in Trees? And How to Get Rid of Them

What Spider Builds Webs in Trees? And How to Get Rid of Them

When you see a tree, words like majestic, serene and awe-inspiring spring to your mind.

Creepy and scary are two words that rarely describe trees. But, that’s likely what you think when you see large, silky nests in your tree.

Now, you’re wondering what kind of spider builds webs in trees. Surprisingly, it isn’t a spider. It’s another tree pest –either fall webworms or Eastern tent caterpillars. Learn what they are, why they make webs and how to get rid of those “spider webs” in your tree.

Helping Trees Covered in Spider Webs

Why does my tree have huge, giant “spider webs” on tree branches?

Spiders actually don’t make those webs in trees. Instead, you can thank fall webworms or Eastern tent caterpillars, depending on the time of year.

Fall webworms are caterpillars that weave a thick web as they feed on trees. Fruit trees are usually their first pick, but they feed on more than 100 different kinds of trees.

If you see tree webs in spring, that’s likely tent caterpillars. These caterpillars feed on these types of trees but are only a serious problem for black cherry trees.

What’s the lifecycle of fall webworms? When are they around? What about tent caterpillars?

As their name suggests, you’ll spot fall webworms most often in fall.

But, they’re there all year. In winter, they lay eggs, which hatch in spring. Come summer, those caterpillars eat your tree leaves and begin spinning webs in time for fall.

On the flip side, tent caterpillars hatch in early March and build webs for shelter in late April. They feed on leaves as caterpillars for about a month before spinning a cocoon and emerging as moths a few weeks later. Then, they lay their eggs in May.

Do fall webworms or tent caterpillars damage our trees? Are webworms poisonous?

Though fall webworms and tent caterpillars are eyesores, that’s about their only threat. These caterpillars aren’t poisonous and don’t damage established trees. Phew.

It’s a different story for younger trees, though. As webworms and caterpillars feed on young trees, they can cause complete leaf loss before the tree has a chance to thrive. In this case, your trees are counting on you to step in and stop the pest.

How to get rid of “spider webs” in trees

First, use a broom to remove webs from branches and improve the look of your trees.

But, fall webworms live in cocoons in winter rather than their webs. So, even if you remove their webs, they can still return next summer.

To get rid of fall webworms for good, prune webbed branches or apply an insecticide to tree leaves, not the webs.

To rid your tree of Eastern tent caterpillars, remove their eggs, which look like black bumps on your tree’s branches, in winter. If they still hatch in early spring, you can apply an insecticide.

Click here to learn more about treating fall webworms in trees. Or here to find out more about managing Eastern tent caterpillars. 

  • The Tree Doctor December 7, 2017 > Hi there, Cynthia. The good news is these spiders are strictly aesthetic. Spiders can actually benefit the trees, as they eat insects that can be harmful to the tree. Depending on the height of the trees, though, you can knock down the webs with a garden hose if you wish to get rid of them. Hope this helps, Cynthia.
  • Cynthia Kosub December 6, 2017 >The oak trees on the water front at Lake Buchanan have been invaded (as of mid-October) by long jawed orb weavers and their webs. The "spider expert" at Texas Parks and Wildlife told me they would go away after the first cold front and rain. They have not. Do you have any experience with these?
  • The Tree Doctor July 11, 2017 >Hi Lourdes! This sounds like it could be a fungal disease called powdery mildew. To make the best recommendation, though, we would need to see photos of the leaves. You can email us at blog@davey.com to provide more information. Here if you have any other questions, Lourdes. Thanks for reaching out.
  • Lourdes Garci July 7, 2017 >One of my Crapemyrtle trees barely have any leaves this Summer. I noticed that a few leaves started coming out but some leaves had like a white webbing on them. I checked out info on doing checks on the tree trunk to see if it was still green, it is. It's not dead but I want to know what this desease is and how to get rid of it! Thank you in advance for any info and help on this. I live in North East Fort Worth Texas.
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