Eastern Tent Caterpiller

Common Name: Eastern tent caterpillar moth

Scientific Name: Malacosoma americana

Season: One generation, with caterpillars appearing first in April into late May, and adults by June.

Food: Caterpillars feed primarily on cherry trees, but may build nests on apple and crabapple as well.

Ecology: As the name implies, the caterpillars of this moth form a silken nest in the crotch of tree branches, where caterpillars rest and molt. Caterpillars that leave the nest “scout” for leaves to feed from, dragging a trail of silk behind them that other caterpillars will follow. When the caterpillars reach their final molt, they leave the nest to pupate, and may be found several plants away from their actual host plant. Contrary to popular belief, a nest of tent caterpillars in your cherry tree will not outright kill the plant, and within a month’s time, trees recover. Adults produce a spongy mass of eggs on twigs of their host plant, which will overwinter.

Doug Tallamy Photo

caterpillar nest

Trees have adapted to eastern tent caterpillar nesting activity: Leaves will return after this nesting stage is completed. Adam Mitchell Photo

moth

Another view of eastern tent caterpillar moth. Adam Mitchell Photo