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Forest tent caterpillar

A forest tent caterpillar
Brian Adams [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]
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Flickr
A forest tent caterpillar

The forest tent caterpillar moth (Malacosoma disstria) is found throughout North America, especially in the eastern regions. Unlike related tent caterpillar species, the larvae of forest tent caterpillars do not make tents, but rather, weave a silky sheet where they lie together during molting. They also lay down strands of silk as they move over branches and travel as groups along these pheromone-containing silk trails. The caterpillars are social, traveling together to feed and massing as a group at rest. Group behavior diminishes as the caterpillars increase in size, so that by the fifth instar (molt) the caterpillars are feeding and resting independently.

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Rudy Mancke served as naturalist and co-host of South Carolina ETV's NatureScene, which began its long run in 1978. His field trips, broadcast nationwide, have earned him a legion of dedicated viewers. Rudy's knowledge of the complex inner-workings of different ecosystems and his great admiration for the natural world make him the perfect guide. In fact, the National Wildlife Federation and the Garden Club of America honored his commitment to resource conservation with special awards. Since retiring from SCETV, Rudy has gone on to teach at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.