Eastern Tent

Here are two examples of Eastern Ten Caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum), which are often mistaken for Gypsy Moth caterpillars. The invasive Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) was introduced to Massachusetts in 1869 by some idiot who wanted to improve silk production: they got loose and have been a serious threat to our eastern hardwood forests ever since. I’ve never seen one of the handsome devils. These native Tent caterpillars can eat a lot of greens too, but not to the extent of the (unfortunately named) Gypsy moths. Last week, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge was crawling with Tents, which are also rather good-looking specimens.

Yes, when I say “crawling,” I mean it. Populations fluctuate year to year, and this looks like a boom year. We were on the lookout for the two types of cuckoos, Yellow-billed and the less common Black-billed, who love to scarf these up, but saw/heard no evidence of the notoriously discreet birds.

Natural History Note 1: The sapling above was one of several newly planted oaks. A tag on one identified it as coming from the Greenbelt Native Plant Center.

Natural History Note 2: It’s getting rarer and rarer for me to see a local life-bird, that is, a species for the first time. The Black-billed Cuckoo eluded me until last week in Prospect Park.

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