How to Get Rid of Oak Tree Caterpillars

How to Get Rid of Oak Tree Caterpillars

Did you know oak is the national tree for more than 10 countries?

Unfortunately, some pests are quite fond of oak trees, too. In spring and summer, hungry caterpillars can’t get enough of oak tree leaves.

The good news is oak trees are notably resilient, but they do need a little help to fight infestations. Read on to identify which type of caterpillar is eating your oak tree and how to control them.

What to Do If Caterpillar Pests Are Eating Oak Tree Leaves

Look at the caterpillars on your oak tree and observe the leaves as well. Then, try to determine which one is eating your tree–and learn how to stop them!

Oakworm caterpillar

  • How it looks: When young, an oakworm caterpillar is a hairless critter with a big head and a small, yellow-green body. As the pest matures, it turns black.
  • What it does: In spring, oakworms feed on newly sprouted leaves. Groups of these insects devour leaves down to their veins. Sometimes, they completely consume foliage by summertime.
  • When and how to treat: Stop oakworms early on to guarantee a healthy summer canopy. Apply a product that contains Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bio-pesticide, on a sunny spring day when caterpillars are active.

Yellownecked caterpillar

  • How it looks: True to its name, this caterpillar is yellow with black stripes.
  • What it does: Between late summer and early fall, clusters of yellowneck caterpillars skeletonize leaves. They chomp away one section at a time, so you’ll notice full branches lacking greenery.
  • When and how to treat: You can easily eliminate the pest on small trees by shaking them off. For larger trees, or a more serious infestation, use a product that contains Bt.

Tent caterpillar

  • How it looks: It’s a hairy pest with a reddish-brown body and small head.
  • What it does: Tent caterpillars start chewing up foliage early in spring. They also weave a silky, spider-like web that makes for an unsightly appearance.
  • When and how to treat: Wait until winter to clip and destroy the silky webs, or stop the caterpillars by adding a tree band in early spring.


  • How it looks: This is a small caterpillar with a dark head and green or brown body.
  • What it does: Like tent caterpillars, these pests spin silk webs, but they use the webs to tie leaves into a safe feeding area. Over time, leafrollers can defoliate an entire tree.
  • When and how to treat: For small infestations, cut leaves that have leafroller webs. Check back in a week or so to see if new webs have formed, and if so, try treating with Bt.

Want an expert to rid your oak tree of worms or caterpillars? Click here to set up a free consultation.

  • The Tree Doctor October 12, 2017 >Hi there, Bob. Using a rake or long pole, simply pull down the webs and destroy the webworms by hand. The pest can also be eliminated by tearing a hole in the delicate sack and allowing natural predators like yellow jackets, paper wasps and birds access to the caterpillars within. The webs are not predator-proof, and planting predator-attracting plants and flowers around susceptible trees may be enough to encourage webworm-eaters to take care of the problem without getting your hands dirty. Hope this helps, Bob.
  • Bob Reid October 9, 2017 >Webbed nest at top of small oak tree, catapillars nesting in leaves within web nest! Hard to get at nest. Any suggestions? Thanks, Bob, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • The Tree Doctor September 27, 2017 >Hi Victoria. From your description, it sounds like you may have pink striped oakworms. Depending on the size of the tree, you can spray for them. However, you need the correct equipment to do this effectively. We recommend contacting a professional to take care of the issue. Here if you have any other questions, Victoria.
  • Victoria Music September 26, 2017 >I've had caterpillars in a full grossness oak for years. Part of the oak hangs over my pool and deck causing a constant rain of caterpillar poop. How do I treat a full grown oak.
  • The Tree Doctor August 9, 2017 >Hi William. Great question! To make the best recommendation for your tree, we would need to know the approximate size of the tree. It would also be helpful if you could send us some photos of the caterpillars. You can submit your photos to Here if you have any other questions, William.
  • william kania August 6, 2017 >i have a nuttall oak and the leaves are being eaten by black worms or caterpillars. how do i get rid of them?
  • The Tree Doctor June 27, 2017 >Hi Arthur! To make the best recommendation, we would need to know what kind of trees you have on your property and what type of caterpillar you are referring to. You can email us at to provide more information. Here if you have any other questions, Arthur. Thanks for reaching out.
  • Arthur Press June 25, 2017 >What steps do I need to help my trees withstand the Caterpillar infestation ? Thank you. Arthur Press
Add a comment:
Related Blog Posts
  • What Are These Bumps on My Oak Tree Leaves?

    Gwen asked, “I believe insects have burrowed into the leaves of my burr oak tree, now they’re dying and turning orange.”

    If you see bumpy oak leaves with a funky color, learn why this happens.

    Read More
  • Davey's Atlanta Tree Services Ensure a 'Perfect Tree' Receives Care and Recognition

    Earlier this week we shared a story about Davey's Atlanta residential tree services' involvement with tree care and maintenance at the Johns Creek Veterans Memorial Walk. Read another story below about District Manager Chris Heim's effort to earn a special local tree some recognition. It’s the second largest live oak tree in the U.S. And Davey crews have provided its care since the 1950s.

    Until recently, however, perhaps no one else knew just how impressive the Village Sentinel live oak tree is.

    The centuries-old heritage tree standing within Waycross, Georgia’s Baptist Village retirement community outlives many other live oaks once planted along the eastern seaboard for their dense, hard wood and long limbs used for ship building.

    Read More

Request a consultation

  • How would you like to be contacted?
*Please fill out all required fields.