Mexican Tent Caterpillar

Hello again from the Yucatan of Mexico
You helped me with a lovely (and pesky) melon moth a month or so ago and now I have a new question. The attached photos show a woolly caterpillar that has a hard and shiny reddish head. One photo shows how they gather at the base of trees during the daytime. At night they climb the local trees – one they seem to like a lot is a wild fig – and eat the leaves until they look like lacework. Then, as the sun comes up they stream down the tree trunks to gather in hollows and under logs. They are really doing a number on the trees and if they are going to hatch into something noxious I may consider spraying them to reduce their numbers near the area where we live. We live in a dense jungle so won’t be anything close to eliminating them overall. Another characteristic is that they sometimes have a spiderweb-like thread that they emit. I googled the description but don’t find anything. I have looked at all of you photos and don’t see one that looks quite like it nor any description of the behavior. Can you help?
Kathe Kirkbride

Hi Kathe,
Your written description and photos indicate this is probably some type of Tent Caterpillar, though many do not form tents. Huge aggregations often do considerable damage, but these large numbers are cyclical and do not occur every year. Loosing leaves is not a life threatening situation for trees. Poison might do more harm than good.

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