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Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths

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Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth


Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths occurs throughout the eastern United States. Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth is active in the spring. It is a foliage feeder and, as the name implies, a web- or tent-maker. Cherry, apple, and other trees of the rose family.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths


Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth adult have a 1-inch wingspread and are brown and yellowish with two diagonal markings on the forewings. Caterpillars grow to over 1-½ inches long. They are brightly colored with long hairs on their bodies, mostly along the sides and marked with a solid white line down the center of the back. Other colors may vary but solid or broken lines of blue, yellow and black are also present. Larvae form a dense silken web usually in the crotch of small limbs which is used as a refuge at night and during rainy spells. The tent is expanded as the caterpillars grow.


Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth are aggressive feeders, and frequently completely strip host trees of foliage. Healthy trees usually refoliate and survive, but loss of foliage retards radial growth and may cause dieback in crowns.


Life Cycle: Eastern tent caterpillar overwinters as an egg, within an egg mass of 150 to 400 eggs. caterpillars from one egg mass stay together and spin a silken tent in a crotch of a tree. Caterpillars from two or more egg masses may unite to form one large colony. During the heat of the day or rainy weather, the caterpillars remain within the tent. They emerge to feed on leaves in the early morning, evening, or at night when it is not too cold.


Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths

larvae are hairy caterpillars, black with a white stripe down the back, brown and yellow lines along the sides, and a row of oval blue spots on the sides. As the larvae feed on the foliage, they increase the size of the web until it is a foot or more in length. In 4 to 6 weeks the caterpillars are full grown and 2 to 2-1/2 inches long. At this time, they begin to wander away individually from the nest in search of protected areas to spin a cocoon. The cocoon is about 1 inch long and made of closely woven white or yellowish silk and is attached to other objects by a few coarser threads.


Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths adult emerges from the cocoon about 3 weeks later. The moth is reddish-brown with two pale stripes running diagonally across each forewing. Moths mate and females begin to lay eggs on small branches. The eggs will hatch next spring. There is just one generation per year.


Damage Eastern tent caterpillar occasionally attacks other deciduous ornamental shrubs, shade, and forest trees. The silky tents spun by the caterpillars make landscape trees unsightly, and the caterpillars are annoying when searching for food or a suitable place to spin their cocoons.


Eastern tent caterpillars do not feed within their webs, but congregate there during the night and rainy weather. When caterpillars are abundant, they frequently eat all the leaves on a tree which weakens it, but seldom kills it. The foliage on the host tree may be stripped from all the twigs within a distance of three feet from the nests.


Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths

Control:Eastern tent caterpillar are normally kept below damaging levels by many natural enemies such as birds and parasitic predatory insects. However occasionally These natural enemies are not fully effective allowing tent cater tantcaterpillar populations to build with resulant tree defoliation.


Eastern tent caterpillar egg masses are easy to spot after the leaves have dropped in the fall. Simply clip off and crush or dispose. If egg masses were undetected, there is ample time to hand remove any nests in the spring. It is suggested that a glove be used as the caterpillar hairs are irritating to some people. Simply scrape the nest off onto the ground and crush the caterpillars or drop them into a pan of soapy water. Early morning or late afternoon is best because most of the caterpillars will be in the tent.


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