EASTERN TENT CATERPILLAR II

Our Caterpillar of the Week is the Eastern Tent Caterpillar -- Malacosoma americanum. Many of us are familiar with the spongy egg masses of the Eastern Tent Moth, which often encircle branches of wild black cherry trees. However, few realize that even as the snow comes down and temperatures plunge below zero, hundreds of tiny caterpillars are already fully formed within these masses, snug inside their individual egg shells. Tent caterpillars develop shortly after their eggs are laid in early summer and then go dormant until the following spring. Throughout winter, the tiny caterpillars protect themselves from cold by producing high levels of glycerol--a sugar that acts as an antifreeze--and

EASTERN TENT CATERPILLAR I

Our Caterpillar of the Week is painted with brilliant blue and yellow, is flamboyant and impossible to ignore, and is arguably the most social living caterpillar in the whole world -- it is the misunderstood, despised, and embattled Eastern Tent Caterpillar, Malacosoma americanum. Eastern Tent Caterpillars have a horrible reputation. After all, in some years they occur in such incredible numbers that they can strip the cherry, apple, and other fruit trees of a region bare. Even in years when they are less numerous, a single egg mass laid in your backyard flowering cherry can cause havoc. But this is just part of their incredible story. The more I have delved into the details of their biology

FILAMENT BEARER

This week's Caterpillar of the Week: The aptly named "Filament Bearer" - Nematocampa resistaria. About a year ago, the internet went crazy over a video of a strange and tropical caterpillar from the depths of uncharted Amazonia. This caterpillar, with bizarre hydraulic tentacles that expand and contract, was presented as evidence for the incredible diversity and overall strangeness of the creatures lurking in our planet's hard-to-reach and unexplored regions. Well... The caterpillar that gained so much attention was a close relative, and exact lookalike, of a common New England caterpillar that can be found in backyards and green spaces throughout the region. This fact makes the filament bea

THE JOKER II

Feralia jocosa - "The Joker" Mossy Sallow Moths. A very variable species. These beauties are among the first moths that arrive at our lights each spring. The females will lay eggs if held for one night and soon we will be raising their equally stunning caterpillars in the lab. We featured this species as a "Caterpillar of the Week" some time ago, but did not have images of the adults at that time. Enjoy! --Sam Jaffe TCL Director

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The Caterpillar Lab fosters greater appreciation and care for the complexity and beauty of our local natural history through live caterpillar educational programs, research initiatives, and photography and film projects. We believe that an increased awareness of one’s local environment is the foundation on which healthy and responsible attitudes towards the broader natural systems of this world is built.

© 2015 CATERPILLAR LAB INC.  With original artwork by Heather Reid and Samuel Jaffe

 

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