Spruce: Spruce budworm

categories: Conifers Ornamentals Spruce Spruce Insects

revision date: 2023-04-12 12:00

Blue spruce needles with green to brown caterpillar with a darker head.
Caption: Spruce budworm
Photo by: T.J. Fitzgerald


These larvae feed on the buds and foliage and may tie shoot tips together with webbing to make a nest. They are typically green to brown in color with a darker head and grow to approximately 1″ long. The adult is a dark gray moth. This insect is an infrequent pest in the landscape. Spruce budworms attack true firs and Douglas fir as well as spruces.

Management Options

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

Non-chemical Management

Select non-chemical management options as your first choice!

  • It may be possible to hand-pick and destroy budworms on small trees.
  • Natural controls include environmental conditions and parasitic wasps.

Chemical Management

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

  • Apply insecticides in spring (May) when larvae are feeding on old needles and before they enter buds. June to July applications will control larvae on new growth.
  • If Bt is chosen, be sure to apply when insect is feeding. Best time is when caterpillars are young.Use a spreader-sticker with liquid Bt formulations.
  • 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.