|The flowering crab in bloom|
We controlled the caterpillars and the damage they can do by burning the ever-growing nests. Waiting 'til dusk to ensure that most of the caterpillars had returned to the nest after their day of foraging, we cut off the branch the nest was on, and burned the nest with its load of caterpillars inside. This yearly "cutting of the tents" was part of the annual pruning regimen of the flowering crab.
Then came the chickadees. They arrived one summer and stayed to nest. My son-in-law began feeding them, so the family soon stayed all winter. The chickadees supplemented their winter diet of black sunflower seeds courtesy of my son-in-law with the protein stored in the crab tree in the form of hibernating insects and tent caterpillar egg cases.
Now, during fall, winter and early spring, the unquenchable little chickadees clean every inch of the tree searching out eggs and egg cases hidden in the bark. They are diligent in their work; no protein source is missed.
And so, thanks to the chickadee family (and the nuthatches and the little downy woodpecker, too) there are no tent caterpillar egg cases in the tree come spring. AND that means no tent caterpillars.