New landscaping at Wilkes Elementary damaged by tent caterpillar infestation

An infestation of tent caterpillars on the newly landscaped grounds of Captain Charles Wilkes Elementary School has prompted school officials to use a mixture of insecticide and organic tea to wipe out the destructive insects.

The Bainbridge Island School District notified parents of students at the school late Monday that the application of insecticide has been planned for 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22 and Thursday, May 23, depending on the weather.

School district officials said the tent caterpillar infestation started in early May.

The insects stripped bare Yoshino cherry trees that had been freshly planted, and the bugs were also spreading to birch trees and laurel shrubs on the school grounds.

Officials said the contractor who handles landscaping for the new school tried to control the infestation by pruning branches that had been hit by caterpillar tents, and also tried pulling them off by hand, but the infestation continued to spread.

District officials said they consulted with its Integrated Pest Management Committee and Paul Figueroa, acting area manager for the Washington State Department of Agriculture, before deciding to use insecticide.

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