Spruce: Douglas fir tussock moth

categories: Conifers Ornamentals Spruce Spruce Insects

revision date: 2023-04-12 12:00

Fuzzy caterpillar on Douglas fir needles on blue sky background.
Douglas-fir tussock moth
Photo by: R.D. Akre


Douglas fir tussock moth larvae are distinguished by three long tufts of black hairs on their body (two in front, one in back) and lighter tufts along their back. They feed on the needles of spruce, Douglas fir, and true firs. On trees grown in the open, the larvae start at the top and work down, feeding mainly on the new foliage. Tussock moth outbreaks are sporadic. The hairs from tussock moth caterpillars break off easily and may irritate the skin.

Management Options

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

Non-chemical Management

Select non-chemical management options as your first choice!

  • Parasites and other natural controls keep this pest in check most of the time.
  • Do not touch caterpillars with bare hands. Use gloves to handpick caterpillars.

Chemical Management

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

  • Monitor trees and apply when caterpillars first appear.
  • Horticultural oils, soap-based products and some other products may cause discoloration of spruce needles, particularly on Colorado blue spruce.
  • Read labels carefully and test on a small area before application.
  • 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.