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Camping Caterpillars

30 Jul
Tent caterpillars in webbing.

Tent caterpillars in webbing (Sam Houston National Forest).

These gregarious caterpillars get their name from the elaborate ‘tents’ of webbing around they weave as a unit.  There the young caterpillars dwell in relative safety, warming themselves early in the year, and escaping the high temperatures that may occur later in the year.  The layers of webbing forming the ‘tent’ create a range of temperatures which allows the caterpillars to thermoregulate efficiently.  Here you can see where the webbing has been torn open to reveal the mass of fuzzy orange caterpillars beneath.  The caterpillars leave the tent to forage, laying down scent trails to find their way back and to alert tentmates to tasty finds.  This behavior is remarkably similar to that of ants.

Tent caterpillars are members of the moth family Lasiocampidae.  Adults are typically dull brown and somewhat fluffy.

Tent caterpillars.

An opened nest of tent caterpillars.