Thursday, May 2, 2013


The wild cherry trees are beginning to show their small leaves. And, in a wonderful display of synchronicity, the eastern tent caterpillars are showing themselves as well. Many of the cherry trees have at least one nest.

In early spring the tiny eggs hatch and the caterpillars begin spinning a small silken tent in the crotch of a tree where they live protected during the day. As the caterpillars grow, the size of the nest increases. Putting on the bulk they'll need as adult moths is their sole purpose in life. At night the caterpillars venture out to eat cherry leaves but they don’t always make it back to the safety of the nest.

People often panic when they see these tents in their trees. They want to douse them in kerosene and burn ‘em out. That’s a bit extreme! The nests are really just natural birdfeeders. Only a same percentage of the caterpillars survive, the birds eat most of them. The other day I watched a pair of blue jays in a nearby cherry gobbling down caterpillars as fast as they could.


Anonymous said...

When we go camping in the summer our tent never goes up as neatly as this. Might try pitching in a cherry tree next time.

Greenfingers said...

We have similar web-forming caterpillars here in the northern half of the UK, that infest bird cherry (Prunus padus) trees. Ours are the larvae of the small ermine moth (Yponomeuta sp.), which sometimes defoliate the whole tree and leave its bare twigs shrouded in silk.

Stephen Lyn Bales said...

Rambling Rob.

I agree. The last time we put up our tent, it took considerable effort to get it looking proper. Considerable.

Hope all is well there in the channel.

Stephen Lyn Bales said...

Hello Greenfingers.

It's good to hear from you. I just peaked at your profile: you and I are the same age.

Isn't it fascinating that two different caterpillars do similar things on both sides of the "big pond." Of course, your Mr. Darwin would not have been surprised in the least.

Enjoy your Wednesday evening.