“Forest Tent Caterpillar”

“Tent Caterpillar”

“And I wonder if the caterpillar at the threshold of death ever knew that she would get metamorphosed into a butterfly that she could fly.” 
― Chirag Tulsiani

Our camp area was overrun with these caterpillars this past weekend. We’ve been going to the same location for fourteen years and I can’t recall ever seeing so many tent caterpillars, though I did not actually see a colony in any neighbouring trees. On researching this, what I thought was an Eastern Tent Caterpillar, turned out to be a Forest Tent Caterpillar. The colouring is slightly different and the Forest Tent Caterpillar does not congregate inside the tent, rather in ‘clumps’ high in the host trees. The individual caterpillars were everywhere as were completed cocoons. Every nook and cranny had a yellow silk cocoon attached to them. At some point in the next three weeks, the northern forest will be filled with moderately sized, brown moths.

As a child, this was the most common caterpillar and thus, the first exposure we had to the life cycle of moths and butterflies. Because they are covered in hairs, they were more appealing than some of their naked cousins. I think all my friend’s bug jars housed one of these at one point, though we had no idea what they actually ate. Some survived, many perished.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 (272ENII)@90mm
1/80 sec, f/22.0 ISO 800

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6 Comments on ““Forest Tent Caterpillar”

  1. I’d forgotten what the adult moth looks like (as is sometimes the case when the caterpillar is so striking) so I checked Wikipedia and discovered this comment about infestations: “On those rare occasions when infestations last for three years or more, tree mortality rates can become significant. Multiple outbreaks in Northern Ontario, Canada, in the 1990s resulted in over six consecutive years of aspen defoliation in some areas. One outbreak in upstate New York and Vermont began in 2002, with 650,000 acres (2600 km²) defoliated in New York and 230,000 acres (930 km²) in Vermont by 2005.” Them’s hungry critters! Let’s hope you’re not on the 3-year lis, Ed. 🙂

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