May 07 2009


Published by at 12:21 pm under Insects, Fish, Frogs,Trees

Tent caterpillars (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

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.

I’m not fond of tent worms but they’re a favorite food of black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoos who will be arriving soon on migration. I saw my first tent last weekend.  Bring on the cuckoos!

(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Tents”

  1. Tracion 07 May 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Man, this photo took me back almost 30 years to growing up on the family Farm. My cousin and I used to collect these worms and make ‘pets’ out of them. 🙂 There were always so many of them. They were such a gentle creature, as I recall. Our Mothers would get so incredibly mad and make us take them back. Of course, we couldn’t get them back into the tent – so would just leave them at the base of the tree. This also reminded me of the bats!! We loved the bats. I had one fly into my house here in Lawrenceville about 7 years ago. It took me ages to catch it and let it back outside. Another gentle creature. I am so glad Spring is finally here…

  2. Pattyon 08 May 2009 at 10:11 am

    So, that’s what I have in my little crab apple tree. I’ll hang out my “Welcome Cuckoos” sign today!

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply