tent caterpillar

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tent caterpillar,

common name for the larvae of the members of a family of mothsmoth,
any of the large and varied group of insects which, along with the butterflies, make up the order Lepidoptera. The moths comprise the great majority of the 100,000 species of the order, and about 70 of its 80 families.
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 (Lasiocampidae), easily recognized by the large silk tents, or webs, that the larvae construct during the spring in the crotches of trees, particularly apple and cherry trees. Tent caterpillars are hairy and usually brightly colored, with blue and yellow spots. Periodically they become serious orchard pests and occur in large enough numbers to defoliate whole trees and damage the fruit. Many larvae live gregariously within the tent, which they use for shelter during the night and in rainy weather. During the day, the larvae leave the tent and feed on the leaves in nearby branches.

The best-known tent maker is the Eastern tent caterpillar, Malacosoma americanum. In addition to being an orchard pest, it has been linked to mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS), in which apparently healthy mares experience high rates (more than 70% in experimental studies) of aborted fetuses or stillborn foals. An outbreak of MRLS resulted in the lost of more than 5,000 foals in Kentucky in 2001. Elimination of caterpillar populations, by removing host trees or eradicating the caterpillars, or otherwise avoiding horse contact with the caterpillars and their waste appears to prevent the syndrome. Other species of Malacosoma occur both in E and W North America and have been known to defoliate large areas by attacking a variety of forest and shade trees. Not all species build tents; despite the name forest tent caterpillar, M. disstria, at times an extremely destructive pest that migrates by the millions to new food plants, never weaves a tent.

The tent caterpillar pupates within the oval white cocoon it spins, and the adult emerges during midsummer as a reddish brown or gray, medium-sized, stout-bodied, hairy moth with feathery antennae. After mating, the adult deposits several hundred eggs, covered by a thick, foamy brown crust, in bands around the twigs of the host tree. The eggs overwinter until the early spring when they hatch. Larvae from several egg masses congregate near a fork in a limb and form the tent by crawling about, leaving silk behind. Removing egg masses during the winter or removing tents in the early spring and soaking them in kerosene or burning them, are the most effective means of control.

Tent caterpillars are classified in the phylum ArthropodaArthropoda
[Gr.,=jointed feet], largest and most diverse animal phylum. The arthropods include crustaceans, insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, scorpions, and the extinct trilobites.
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, class Insecta, order Lepidoptera, superfamily Bombycoidea, family Lasiocampidae.

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References in periodicals archive ?
Effect of host and nonhost trees on the growth and development of the forest tent caterpillar, Malacosoma disstria (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae).
Development and feeding efficiency of Malacosoma neustrium larvae reared with Quercus spp.
Population-genetic structure in insects such as Malacosoma americanum arises from a complex interplay of dispersal, mating patterns, host use patterns, selection, and genetic drift.
Overwintering egg mass adaptations of the eastern tent caterpillar, Malacosoma americanum (Fab.) (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae).
Bioassay of nucleopolyhedrosis virus against larval instars of Malacosoma neustria.
Daily foraging schedule of field colonies of the eastern tent caterpillar Malacosoma americanum.
Examples of maternal effects are: the increased ability of autumnal moth (Epirrita autumnata) caterpillars to feed on foliage with induced defensive chemicals if their mothers originated from a high-density population (Haukioja and Neuvonen 1987); the variation in egg size and associated cold tolerance in spruce budworm, Choristoneura fumiferana (Harvey 1985); the variation of western tent caterpillar (Malacosoma californicum pluviale) activity and survival with the history of the mother in such a way that food-stressed mothers produce less active caterpillars (Wellington 1965); and the variation in survival of offspring with food quality of the parental generation of fall webworm, Hyphantria cunea (Morris 1967).
Some studies suggest that the wing trap may be more effective at low population densities, but Schmidt & Roland (2003) showed the opposite to be true for forest tent caterpillar, Malacosoma disstria Hubner (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae).
Tannin sensitivity in larvae of Malacosoma disstria (Lepidoptera): roles of the peritrophic envelope and midgut oxidation.
For Malacosoma castrensis, Merz (1959) found that, in some cases, larvae grew better when a mixture of plants was provided than when single host plant species were provided.
Food plant specialization and feeding efficiency in the tent caterpillars, Malacosoma dissitra and M.
For example, [Alpha] = 0.18-0.30 in Spodoptera exigua (Smits and Vlak 1988), 0.13-0.20 in Pseudoplusia includens (Ali and Young 1991), 0.11 in Hyphantria cunea (Nordin and Maddox 1972), 0.090 in Lymantria dispar (Doane 1967), and 0.053 in Malacosoma americanum (Smirnoff 1967).