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Eastern Tent Caterpillars Hatching & Building Tents

eastern tent cat. FINAL 090The adult Eastern Tent Caterpillar moth lays her eggs in late spring or early summer on a tree whose leaves its larvae will eat (black cherry and apple trees are favorites). Two to three hundred eggs are deposited in a mass that encircles a thin branch. Within three weeks fully formed caterpillars develop inside the eggs. The caterpillars remain there until the following spring, when they chew their way out of the eggs just as the buds of the host tree are starting to open. As soon as the caterpillars emerge, they construct a silk tent within which they reside, enlarging it as they grow in size.

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6 responses

  1. Louise Garfield

    I have read that cuckoos live tent caterpillars. Might we see the birds this spring or next?

    May 6, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    • In a couple of weeks both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos should be returning to New England. Yes, they do eat hairy caterpillars (including tent caterpillars) and periodically shed the lining of their stomach to remove the hairs!

      May 6, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    • Louise Garfield

      I meant to write “cuckoos LIKE tent caterpillars”–
      another question is whether the caterpillars harm the fruit trees? Also, do they tend to appear every year or more cyclically?

      May 7, 2014 at 12:34 am

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    Wow, Mary. You know everything!

    May 6, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    • Hardly! I just spend every penny I have on natural history books (and camera equipment) and research every question and post!

      May 6, 2014 at 11:55 pm

  3. For many years, we had heavy infestations, but luckily the tide turned and the past few haven’t been so bad. But the tide may once again turn…

    May 10, 2014 at 2:11 am

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