Tent Caterpillar. The larvae of certain species of moths are named tent caterpillars for the large, tentlike nests they spin from silk. Tent caterpillars are brightly colored and hairy. They are very active and often become pests because they eat the foliage of broad-leaved trees. In the United States there are only a few species of moths whose larvae are tent caterpillars. The most common and most destructive of these larvae is the eastern tent caterpillar.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

The adult moth, which is about one inch (2.5 cm) long, has a reddish-brown, hairy body with two pale, oblique stripes on each forewing. In summer, the moth cements the eggs in clusters that encircle the twigs of shrubs or trees.

The caterpillars hatch from the eggs the following spring. The hairy caterpillars are black to light brown with blue and white markings and a white stripe along the middle of the back. They spin a nest in the fork of a branch. Many caterpillars inhabit each nest. When fully grown, the caterpillars, which are about two inches (5 cm) long, leave their nest to spin the white, oval cocoons from which the moths will emerge. Tent caterpillars can be eliminated by spraying with insecticides.

The eastern tent caterpillar is the larva of Malacosoma americana of the family Lasiocampidae, of the order Lepidoptera.