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Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth (Malacosoma americanum)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

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The popular and furry Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth picks the perfect tree to start a family where the offspring make a mess of things.

Updated: 01/03/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth gets its name based on the behavior of its caterpillars. Together, a cluster of young caterpillars create a "tent" from their silk and use it as a home on the tree or shrub they are feeding off. The yellow and black, meal worm-like caterpillars come and go during the day as they eat, returning at night for protection from the elements and potential predators. The tents are sticky and difficult to remove from branches. Because of feeding activity, dead leaves and fruit get trapped inside, creating unsightly branches.

Adult moths have brown hair all over them. Two thin, but obvious white lines cross their forewings at the center and lower portion. Brown antennae are comb-like and large. The thorax is covered in dense brown hairs. Like most moths, Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moths are attracted to lights at night and are nocturnal. They are commonly seen around roses and fruit trees, like apple, cherry and peach, where they are likely to lay their eggs. Female moths lay black egg sacs on twigs, near a leaf bud so the young caterpillars can eat the new leaves immediately after they hatch. Because the caterpillars feed off of trees that bear fruit that humans eat, they can be considered pests.

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Lasiocampidae
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          Genus: Malacosoma
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            Species: americanum

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Malacosoma americanum
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 30mm to 41mm (1.18" to 1.61")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; white
Descriptors: furry; uneven; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 30mm (1.2in) and 41mm (1.6in)
Lo: 30mm
Md: 35.5mm
Hi: 41mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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