May 07 2009
Coming soon to a cherry tree near you… tent worms!
Their real name is the Eastern Tent Caterpillar but in my family we’ve called them “tent worms” ever since one memorable spring in the late 1960’s when they overran our neighborhood. They were everywhere. We couldn’t walk without stepping on one. Ewwwww!
Eastern tent caterpillars are actually moths that specialize in eating plants in the Rosaceae family including apples, chokecherries and black cherries. Most people only notice them in the spring when they build silken tents in the crotches of trees.
The tents first appear just before the leaves burst open. Every day the caterpillars emerge to eat the leaves laying scent trails as they walk so they can follow them back to the tent. As the caterpillars grow they make their tents larger to bury their waste and provide a place to hide between eating excursions. When they’re ready to become moths, each goes off on its own to weave a cocoon. To see these life stages, view Chuck Tague’s excellent photo essay.
(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)