Solutions & Substitutions by Reena: Dealing with Tent Caterpillars


By Reena Nerbas

Tent Caterpillars

Hi Reena,

(photo by Tracey Walshaw)
Tent caterpillar nest (photo by Tracey Walshaw)

I am checking whether you know if there is a non-toxic way to deal with tent caterpillars, maybe something I can spray to kill them? Thanks, Abe

Hi Abe,

Tent caterpillars are notorious for stripping a tree in a short amount of time, they eat at incredible rates and most people don’t necessarily want to prune every infected branch. The best time to get rid of tent caterpillars is early in the morning while they are still in their nest. However, this non-toxic remedy may be used at any time. Fill a spray bottle with vegetable oil and spray each tent nest, and caterpillar. Since the adorable creatures breathe through their skin, the oil prevents them from the ability to take in air. Some people burn caterpillars however this is risky especially during dry seasons, as fires can quickly spread out of control.

Grease Stains on Cement

Hi Reena,

Just wondering if you know how we can clean up grease/oil stains on a cement patio around the BBQ area? We would greatly appreciate any helpful hints you may have. Carol

Dear Carol,

Apply a solution of one cup washing soda and one quarter cup TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) per gallon of water. Scrub or pressure-wash stains. As a last resort, combat tough grease stains with muriatic acid. Apply the acid following the manufacturer’s directions, and let it soak for several seconds. Keep in mind that muriatic acid is a dangerous product; if you use it, wear rubber or latex gloves, safety goggles and protective clothing, and never wash it down storm drains. Test all solutions on an inconspicuous area first.

Dill Pickles

Dear Reena,

Do you have a recipe similar to Oscar’s Deli dill pickles that use the more mature cucumbers? Joyce

Dear Joyce,

For crispy pickles, it is best to use fresh cucumbers, but here is a recipe sent in by a contributor who had success using overripe cucumbers. Peel and seed seven pounds ripe cucumbers. Cut lengthwise and soak overnight in a large container with 2 gallons water and 1 cup salt. Drain and then soak cucumbers in clear water, drain. Stir together: four and a half pounds sugar, half gallon white vinegar, cloves, dill, onions and hot peppers and garlic cloves. Soak cucumbers in mixture overnight. Bring to a boil, cool and refrigerate or seal. Makes 8 pints.

Feedback from Insightful Reader

Dear Reena,

I live with antique furniture that remains closed; dressers, desks, commodes etc. and have noticed the odor from the old wood. My solution: Wash the exposed wood with a solution of: 1 tbsp. tea tree oil, 1 tbsp. dish soap and 4 cups vinegar. After the wood surfaces have dried, I apply (natural) cedar oil with a cheesecloth. The scent is a bit strong at first, but eventually evaporates. This is also an all-purpose spray cleaner for mirrors, bathrooms, kitchen surfaces and doesn’t use bleach but does inhibit the nasty stuff like black mildew around sinks. Cheers, Cathie

Repurpose Common Items into Unique Planters

Stuff the legs of an old pair of kid’s jeans with plastic bags. Put planter pot inside waist and secure with a belt. Add plant. A few seated stuffed jean planters in a row create unique garden accents. Also works with colorful shoes and rubber or work boots.
Don’t know what to do with that old wooden piano? Open the lid and fill with plant pots. Cascade gorgeous flowers from every angle. Other options: Fill a fiddle or guitar with greenery and flowers and display in the garden.
Lean an old bicycle (or wheel barrow) against a tree. Fill the bike basket with flowers.

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.

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