Eastern Tent Caterpillar Adult

2012 February 1

Sandy found this moth indoors, fluttering around the lights in the bathroom, on July 15, 2011. It was a pretty good-sized moth, with a body about 2 cm long (almost an inch).

While it was found in the house, it was our fault that it was inside. You see, Sam and Rosie like to play with Tent Caterpillars when they come out in the spring and summer, keeping them in jars and feeding them leaves. And there are a fair number of them that escape. Most of the escapees probably starve, but at least one of the Eastern Tent Caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum) evidently escaped, found a quiet corner to make a cocoon in, and then successfully pupated inside the house.

This one is male, as we can see from his very feathery antennae.

He’s pretty chunky, and not a particularly strong flier. Pretty fuzzy, too. The fuzz on the adults doesn’t look as unpleasant to eat as the hairs on the caterpillars do, so I expect that the adult form is the one that gets preyed on the most by birds and bats. Although, when we fed a similarly furry moth to our praying mantis last year, he got a ball of fluff stuck in his mouth, then gave us a dirty look and dropped the moth without eating it. So the fuzz might be good for fending off predation by other arthropods, at least.

Judging from the pictures on BugGuide, the females are just as chunky, but have somewhat larger wings.

I already told most of my good stories about tent caterpillars the last time I posted about them, but at the time I didn’t have any good pictures of an adult to include. So, this posting is mainly just to round out the set. So if you see these moths hanging around your porch light around the middle of July, you might want to watch out for tent caterpillar infestations the next spring.

2 Responses
  1. Bridget permalink
    February 2, 2012

    I love this blog. Just wanted to let you know.

  2. February 2, 2012

    Thanks, Bridget!

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