Poplar Tentmaker
Clostera inclusa (Hubner) (Notodontidae)

L.L. Hyche, Associate Professor
Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology
Auburn University

The poplar tentmaker occurs throughout much of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Hosts are various species of trees of the poplar-willow family (Salicaceae). In Alabama, the caterpillar (Photo 1) feeds on the foliage of cottonwood and willow.

Life Cycle, Description, and Habits

The tentmaker overwinters as a pupa (Photo 2) in a thin, flimsy silken cocoon on the ground in duff and litter. Moths emerge in March-April. The moth (Photo 3) is grayish brown with a conspicuous tuft of brown hairs on the thorax. At rest, the adult is 15-18 mm long, and wings are folded roof like over the body; wings fully extended span 25-32 mm. There are three whitish lines across each front wing. Another line begins at the apical cross-line on the hind or inner margin of the wing and angles obliquely across to the front edge. When wings are folded at rest, this latter line appears to merge with the median cross-line to enclose a light triangular area forward (Photo 3).

Female moths lay eggs in single-layer masses (Photo 4), usually on the under surface of host leaves. The number of eggs per mass varies; among masses collected at Auburn , the number per mass ranged from 48 to over 200. Eggs are spherical and cream-yellow to pink.

The caterpillars are gregarious. Newly hatched and early stage larvae skeletonize leaves, feeding under silken tents (Photo 5). Later-stage larvae consume whole leaves. The full-grown caterpillar (Photo 1) is 35-44 mm. long. The head is shiny black and the body lavender gray to light brown to nearly black. There are four distinct yellow lines down the back and lighter ones on each side with yellow below. Prominent black, double tubercles occur on the top of the first and eighth abdominal segments. These tubercles and the four yellow lines along the back are primary characteristics for identifying the caterpillar.

Larvae live in small silk-lined tents (Photo 1 and Photo 6) which they construct by drawing together edges of individual leaves or tying together two to several leaves with silk. The number of caterpillars per tent varies; ten to 30 were found in tents on hybrid poplar planting stock in the tree nursery at Auburn. These tents are characteristic of the species, and are useful in recognition and identification of infestations. When fully grown, caterpillars leave the tents and move to the ground, spin thin cocoons, and pupate. Soon adults emerge to start a new brood. As many as four broods may occur each year, and caterpillars may be present into the fall for about as long as green foliage remains on host trees. Brown tents abandoned by caterpillars are persistent, and some may hang in trees throughout most of the winter.

Occurrence, Damage, Importance

Infestations are restricted to cottonwood and willow. They are generally most common among trees growing in the open, including trees in plantations and planting stock in nurseries. Tents are usually most numerous and noticeable in late summer and fall. In most years, population are low, tents are small and scattered, loss of foliage is light to moderate, and damage is mostly aesthetic. However, high-level populations occur from time to time, and infested trees may be completely defoliated. Healthy trees generally survive and recover from a single defoliation. However, multiple defoliations in a single season or over consecutive seasons can cause top dieback or even tree mortality.

Natural enemies are important agents in natural control of the poplar tentmaker. Parasitism of larvae and eggs (Photo 7) is often common.

For additional information lhyche@acesag.auburn.edu

[ Notodontidae ]  [ Lepidoptera ]   [ Foliage Feeders ]   [ Crown Insects ]   [ Alabama Trees ]

To Lacy L. Hyche

To Web Publications

To Main Page

All photos courtesy of  Lacy L. Hyche
Any comments on the design
of this page can be sent to the