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