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What Are These Caterpillars Everywhere?

Friends or foes? Does anyone know a good entomologist to ask to identify the caterpillar showcased in this photo?

This week, have you noticed this particular type of caterpillar crawling on everything outdoors? They are of different sizes, presumably at different ages. If one looks closely, they actually are quiet pretty, with a series of seemingly blue-aqua eyes lower to the ground.

Does anyone know what type of caterpillars they are, and if they are so prevalent this spring due to the mild winter we had?

Maybe someone from the University of Missouri Extension team will know what they are, and if they turn into a moth or butterfly.

Terry Biglin April 19, 2012 at 11:57 AM
These are tent caterpillars. They're very hungry & will eat & destroy large bushes & trees. Kill them upon sight!
Lisa April 19, 2012 at 11:59 AM
They are destructive tent caterpillars Julie. They eat trees and make those webs in the trees. They should be eliminated or they will spread rapidly. These pests will turn into moths. I agree, have seen hundreds of these in the past couple weeks!! It's like we are being invaded! Lisa
Jean Hauser April 19, 2012 at 12:54 PM
I'm quite sure they are tent caterpillars, or "web-worms"...the ones that make the webs in trees. Not good!
Pastor Jim Brown April 19, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Looks like a Tent Caterpillar. They hatch out of those silk nests in trees, then eat up all the leaves they can. They just about killed our little apple tree, what was left of it after last years cicadas. http://insects.about.com/od/butterfliesmoths/p/Mamericanum.htm jb
Margaret Poynter April 19, 2012 at 01:20 PM
It is a tent caterpillar and after it pupates it becomes a moth. They build unsightly webs in the crotch of tree branches and feed on foliage.
Melinda Pennington April 19, 2012 at 01:21 PM
My ten year old daughter and her friend have been collecting them and she said they've been eventually turning into moth's after the cocoon process.
Holly April 19, 2012 at 03:37 PM
I just checked with the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Doctor and she asked if there were visible tents. If not, then it is a Forest Caterpillar that is prevalent in the spring in St. Louis. The Plant Doctor did not believe the warm winter affected the number of Forest Caterpillars this spring and it does become a moth. Here is a link that will provide more information http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/insects/caterpillars/forest-tent-caterpillar-ftc.aspx
Nathan Brandt April 19, 2012 at 04:11 PM
These are Eastern Tent Caterpillars, the larval stage of an inch-long reddish brown moth. They are especially prevalent this year due to, you guessed it, the preceding mild winter season and subsequent warm spring weather. They start out as eggs in tight, dark, foamy masses that the moths lay around twigs. After hatching, they migrate together to forks of branches and spin a silken tent for protection. Caterpillars emerge early to feed on foliage and head back home to their tents during the warmest part of the afternoon. After four to six weeks, mature caterpillars will "leave the nest" and find a protected spot to spin a cocoon. Do you need to do anything about them? If a particularly prized plant is being stripped of its leaves you can scrape the tent and caterpillars into a bucket of soapy water or spray the plant with a product containing Bt., Thuricide, for example. Otherwise just enjoy watching them and let nature take its course! Most plants can recover from ETC feeding without too much difficulty. Nathan Brandt - Horticulture Specialist University of Missouri Extension - St. Louis
Pastor Jim Brown April 19, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Looks like a tent catepillar.
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Thanks to everyone for your feedback. A couple of weeks ago, I got fascinated with the volume of "tents" seen in SO MANY of the local trees and took some photos. (We live next to Rockwoods Range, so you can imagine the number of trees by which we're surrounded.) I was really hoping the pretty caterpillar pictured here wasn't the culprit leading to the overabundance of tree tents this year! I've attached one of those tent photos now to this article.
Melinda Pennington April 19, 2012 at 07:45 PM
We have a bunch of little frogs in our yard as well as these caterpillar's.
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Holly Records, Master Gardener Coordinator, University of Missouri Extension/Missouri Botanical Garden emailed the following information: I just checked with the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Doctor and she asked if there were visible tents. If not, then it is a Forest Caterpillar that is prevalent in the spring in St. Louis. The Plant Doctor did not believe the warm winter affected the number of Forest Caterpillars this spring and it does become a moth. Here is a link that will provide more information http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/insects/caterpillars/forest-tent-caterpillar-ftc.aspx

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