tent caterpillar

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tent caterpillar

tent caterpillar, common name for the larvae of the members of a family of moths (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 Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Lepidoptera, superfamily Bombycoidea, family Lasiocampidae.

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References in periodicals archive ?
(14.) Although Priscilla Wakefield's Introduction to the Natural History and Classification of Insects (London, 1816) does not mention European tent caterpillars or Lackey moths per se, she does note that some caterpillars can be "so numerous, as to cause great destruction to the verdure of the country" (86).
Trail-based communication an foraging behavior of young colonies of forest tent caterpillars (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae).
This study of eastern tent caterpillar macrogeographic population structure, together with earlier work on the microgeographic population structure of this species (Costa and Ross 1993), provides one of the most comprehensive analyses of hierarchical population-genetic structure for an insect, encompassing spatial levels from family units to a large portion of the species' range.
Usually the year after a prolific forest tent caterpillar outbreak, friendly flies seem to be everywhere.
"The glitch is that some farms have had problems without noting a concentration of Tent caterpillars, or without any wild-cherry trees," added Byars.
Nuclear polyhedrosis virus treatment effect on reproductive potential of western tent caterpillar (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae).
The Eastern tent caterpillars have beginning to weave webs on flowering fruit trees.
Eastern tent caterpillars defoliate the cherry trees.
As planes flew low over our Cape Cod lakeside cabin, spraying DDT on the tent caterpillars chewing their way through the oak trees, we argued whether he and the government knew best, or whether I did, with my concern that exposure to DDT might harm not just the caterpillars, but other insects and birds, and people in the area.
Even if a few tent caterpillars take up residence in the tree, birds, especially yellow-billed cuckoos, will forage for them and sometimes take care of the problem.
He thinks humanity could follow a course resembling the explosive outbreak of tent caterpillars in his town, which destroyed most of the trees, after which the caterpillars seemed to vanish.