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Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Eastern Tent Caterpiller
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(Malacosoma americanum) Eastern Tent caterpillar

These caterpillars are so common in the state of Maine, they are considered a serious pest not only for agriculture farms, but are extremely unsightly in backyards. Why? Because when the eggs hatch in the spring, they group up in trees and make silk tents. From an organ in their back legs, they shoot silk in order to make an invasive nest that looks like a tent stuck up in a tree. They do this in order to be able to have a food source built right into their home, and having all those insects eating and eating the leaves is why they are so bad for trees. Their colors also change over time from bluish grey with small furs to brownish tan and lots of fur. Near the beginning the first snow/frost, the grown caterpillars go and leave the tent to make a cocoon to pupate over winter.

Also around the first snow/frost, the moths from the year before go around mating. They lay their eggs in a case that covers a small area of a branch. It kind of looks like a branch with a bubbly bracelet if you see one. Cool, huh? Not to farmers. These caterpillars sometimes cost the farmers big time if they don’t take care of them before they can do any damage (which sounds really hard to do.) What some people do is they take a big pole or stick and repeatedly smack the tents until they fall off the tree/bush then stomp on the caterpillars. I some times do this, resulting in a sticky green mess of guts mixed with dead tree. Gross! Other farmers sometimes take it to the next level and just burn the caterpillars! I personally wish I could do this, but Mongo And Angel Will Not Have It. (Also, Don’t Try This At Home. Please, I Don’t Wanna Be Sued Because Your Porch Burnt Down.)

They generally eat whatever they see that is green, but I usually see mine on berry trees or maples. When chewing, if a branch’s leaf’s are all gobbled up, they will either abandon the branch or turn it into a hiding spot. If they abandon it, the web gets weakened since there is nothing to repair it and build on it and the web gets ruined. That is why where you see the tents by a branch that is bare, you should automatically know that it had at one point been occupied by the pesky beasts. One more thing, the moths are brown and furry with fuzzy antennae. Their wingspan is around 1 1/2 inches. The adults also have two thin tan stripes through their wings.

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