What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Gypsy Moth?
Location: Middletown, MD
May 11, 2014 2:32 pm
Hello again! Today we have been inundated by a huge number of these caterpillars on and around our house. We are in Frederick Co, MD. I was hoping you might be able to identify them for me :-).
Signature: Thank you!! Chadrenne

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Dear Chadrenne,
This is an Eastern Tent Caterpillar,
Malacosoma americana, and according to BugGuide:  “larvae feed on leaves of many trees and shrubs but particularly members of the rose family such as apple, cherry, and crabapple.”  According to the Clemson University website:  “Eastern tent caterpillars typically feed during the day time and return to the nest at evening. They may remain in the nest during bad weather. These caterpillars are aggressive feeders and may strip a tree or major branches of all foliage. If the trees are otherwise healthy, the trees will normally produce new leaves. However, overall growth may be retarded due to the defoliation. This damage may significantly stress trees after three or four years of leaf loss.”  In the past week, we have received reports of large numbers of Caterpillar Hunters known as Fiery Searchers from both nearby Virginia and Missouri, and in one instance we responded by stating:  “Perhaps populations are peaking this year because there is a significantly larger proportion of prey, namely caterpillars and other insects.”  Your report of large numbers of Eastern Tent Caterpillars, a favorite prey of the Fiery Searchers, might explain the large population of the predators.

Update:  May 18, 2014
Subject: Tent Caterpillar Update
Location: Middletown, MD
May 18, 2014 9:13 am
I took this today on our Bradford Pear tree…
Signature: Chadrenne

Eastern Tent Caterpillars

Eastern Tent Caterpillars

Hi Chadrenne,
Thanks so much for the update.  The image of the individual you sent last week is a perfect image to identify the species, but your aggregation images are much more typical of the social behavior of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar.  Since we suspect this year might bring significant populations of Eastern Tent Caterpillars, we are featuring your posting.

Eastern Tent Caterpillars

Eastern Tent Caterpillars


What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Middletown, Maryland

5 Responses to Eastern Tent Caterpillar Invasion in Maryland

  1. Chadrenne says:

    Thank you so much! I’m on my phone, and the mobile site won’t let me post a pic update, so I’ll send a separate pic. Thank you again!

  2. Chadrenne says:

    Ironically, I just caught my cat chasing a fiery searcher. Thankfully I saved him!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for the pics!
    I’ve had a recent invasion (though not as massive as yours!!) of caterpillars in my yard and this post was exactly what I needed to identify them! It helps that you’re in the neighborhood (I’m in Baltimore city). My yard backs up against some woods, so I guess they’ve been coming out to eat my cauliflower and Brussels sprout plants as well as some other plants in my yard. It’s useful to know they’re not a butterfly!

    • bugman says:

      Tent Caterpillars will not eat your cauliflower or Brussels sprouts. They do feed on the leaves of a variety of trees, especially, according to BugGuide, “members of the rose family such as apple, cherry, and crabapple”

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