Monday, November 14, 2011

The NESTING Series, Times Five: Tent Nests

The latest chapter in The Nesting Series: the beautiful, the diaphanous Eastern Tent Caterpillar Nests!

The Eastern Tent Caterpillars start building their nest as soon as they hatch from their eggs. Created in the crotch of a tree and oriented with the broadest side of the structure facing the morning sun, the caterpillars spend the entire larval period constructing and expanding the nest to accommodate their growth. 

Photo from The Flying Kiwi

Photo from A Prairie Haven

Photo from Allan Bovee Photography

Photo from BioKIDS

The caterpillars feed three times a day on the leaves of the tree, often denuding all of its foliage while they reside in its branches. Each time they leave the nest to eat, they add another layer to the outside of the nest by walking back and forth over its surface, leaving a trail of silk as they go. As the new layers of silk contract, they pull away from the previous layer creating gaps where the caterpillars bask in the sun between feeding and building. 

Photo from Henderson State University

When fully grown, the caterpillars leave the nest and form individual cocoons elsewhere, transforming into adult moths about two weeks later. Mating and egg-laying typically occur the same day the moths emerge from their cocoons, with the females dying from exhaustion soon thereafter.     

Photo from A Prairie Haven

- Cathleen 

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