Type Of Caterpillars: Chokecherry Tentmaker

Although several different types of caterpillars are known to make web nest, the chokecherry tentmaker has a style all its own. Learn why!

During the early months of summer the tent-like webs of the chokecherry tentmaker can be seen covering the tips of many different fruit trees, but are especially predominant in the chokecherry shrub. Although several different caterpillars are known to make web nest, the time of year that they appear and the shape of the nest can easily distinguish each. Caterpillar webs that are found during the spring and that are in the forked branch of certain trees will most likely belong to the tent caterpillar. Those found during the fall months on larger trees will probably belong to the fall webworm. The chokecherry tentmakers nest is most often found during the summer months and in most cases if found on the chokecherry. The best way to find this interesting insect is to find a chokecherry tree or bush. If you are not familiar with this plant it is a close relative of the black cherry and usually grows along the roadside or in weedy meadows. The leaves of both the tree and bush are dark green with an oval shape. The bark is smooth with a reddish-gray tint and the smaller branches have a reddish hue. At certain times of the year this plant will bear fruit that is yellow, red or black. It can be found throughout North America with the exception of some areas of the southeast.

Even though the chokecherry tentmaker is actually a small moth, one of the most interesting stages of its life is found in the larval state. To observe this busy little creature search for its web in the chokecherry during summer. When you find the web you will notice that leaf debris is scattered throughout the tiny structure. The larvae begin building the nest immediately after hatching by moving to the end of a branch where they bend the leaves until they are almost touching their stem and attaching them with thin strings of web. When this is complete the resulting nest is slender, long and pointy, much like the shape of a pup tent. Throughout the day the nest shelters the larvae while they rest and at night while they feed. When the leaves that are used to make the tent shaped nest have been eaten, more leaves are added, eventually creating a structure with many branches tied into it. On chokecherry bushes where many of these nest can completely clear the plant of leaves, any vegetation surrounding the nest is incorporated until another chokecherry bush is discovered.

From the Archips cerasivoranus species of insects, the chokecherry tentmaker is part of the Torticidae family of leaf rollers. This insect mates in the moth stage of its life cycle during the later part of the summer in the months of June or July. These tiny bell shaped moths are hardly noticeable since their coloring is a drab brown that easily blends with the late summer vegetation. This coupled with the fact that they are nocturnal moths makes them difficult to observe in this stage. After mating has occurred the females will their eggs in clutches at the base of the chokecherry tree or bush covering them with a substance that tends to act as a kind of camouflage. It is believed that the coating on the eggs could also work as a type of insulation to protect them from the cold during the winter. The eggs will remain unhatched through the following winter, finally hatching late the next spring. The larvae remain in their tent shaped web nest forming a sort of cocoon that drapes loosely around their tiny bodies. After about two weeks the larvae will leave these cocoons to move to the edge of their nest, attaching themselves for a couple of day before appearing as adults. During this stage of their life cycle the larvae can be very interesting to observe. Each tiny larva hangs down separately from the edge of the nest like a miniature mummy. In all stages of their life cycle predators of the chokecherry tentmaker includes some birds, spiders and other insects. In some areas of the country where the bitter fruit of the chokecherry tree is collected to make jellies and jams, the chokecherry tentmaker is considered a pest. It's ability to travel to other fruit trees by expanding the web during the larval stage make this insect a threat to other fruit trees as well. Because of this many chokecherry trees and bushes are destroyed to remove the home and food source of this insect.

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