Hello- we have a batch of tent caterpillars that have just hatched in our huge oak tree. The little caterpillars are eating the leaves. What can we do about them? The tree is so large that it is impossible to spray it unless we hired a company to do that.
Ingham County Michigan
Oak trees can lose up to thirty percent of their leaves and recover if they are otherwise healthy. During heavy gypsy moth infestations oak trees have been known to lose all their leaves and then push out a new set of leaves, and they recover fine.
Tent caterpillars are unsightly but rarely need chemical control. They can be pruned out( NOT recommended for oaks however!), removing the tent with a stick, rake, or a strong stream of water, or as you said by chemical spraying. You probably have fall webworm caterpillars.
Keep the tree well watered if rainfall is lacking. A well watered tree will have an easier time of sprouting new leaves and recovering overall.
Here is a reference-