Tent caterpillar

We saw an interesting caterpillar today while hiking at Moe’s Valley near St. George Utah. To be exact it was not just one caterpillar but rather family of caterpillars living together in one big house. You usually think of caterpillar as anti-social bug that minds his own business for a while and then builds some sort of personal cell where he meditates and eventually achieves Enlightenment that turns crawler into flying beauty.

But check our video, these guys apparently live together as a community.

So who are they? Tent caterpillar.

Tent caterpillars are readily recognized because they are social, colorful, diurnal and build conspicuous silk tents in the branches of host trees. Some species, such as the eastern tent caterpillar, Malacosoma americanum, build a single large tent which is typically occupied through the whole of the larval stage.

They are social and help each other to find food:

Studies have shown that eastern tent caterpillars recruit their tent mates to go on food finds. Caterpillars move from the tent in search of food, laying down an exploratory pheromone trail as they pass over the branches of the host tree. These chemical exploratory trails allow caterpillars to find their way back to the tent. If a caterpillar finds food and feeds to repletion, it returns to the tent, laying down a recruitment trail that serves to recruit hungry tent mates to its food find. The chemical nature of the pheromone has been determined, but it is unclear how exploratory and recruitment trails differ. The chemical recruitment trail of the eastern tent caterpillar is remarkably similar to the pheromone trails that are used by ants and termites to alert nest mates to the discovery of food.

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