Hawthorn: Apple-and-thorn skeletonizer

categories: Hawthorn Hawthorn Insects Ornamental trees Ornamentals

revision date: 2024-06-07 06:33

Apple-and-thorn skeletonizer caterpillar feeding on leaf with brown damage area.
Apple-and-thorn skeletonizer caterpillar feeding on leaf
Photo by: A.L. Antonelli


The adult of the apple-and-thorn skeletonizer is a small dark-brown moth. It overwinters as an adult, laying eggs in the spring. The caterpillars are yellow-green in color with black spots and brown heads. They feed on the leaves of several plants including crabapple, apple, pear, cherry, and willow. Characteristic damage includes skeletonized leaves, or leaves that are rolled and tied with webbing. The feeding caterpillars produce large amounts of webbing and small dark frass pellets (excrement).

Management Options

Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for successful plant problem management.

Non-chemical Management

Select non-chemical management options as your first choice!

  • Hand-pick caterpillars.
  • Pinch tied leaves to kill caterpillars inside.

Chemical Management

IMPORTANT: Visit Home and Garden Fact Sheets for more information on using pesticides.

  • Apply if damage is noticed. Several applications may be needed during the season.
  • Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) will provide control of young feeding caterpillars.
  • Use a spreader-sticker with liquid Bt formulations.
  • Applications made in late spring and early summer for control of aphids and other insect pests often reduce this insect as well.
  • Homeowners should not make foliar applications to trees over 10 ft tall.
  • Consult a commercial pesticide applicator for treatment of trees and shrubs over 10 ft. tall.

Approved Pesticides

Listed below are examples of pesticides that are legal in Washington. Always read and follow all label directions.