Northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora), Island Center Forest, Tim DiChiara Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister), Sylvan beach, Tim DiChiara Acorn barnacles (Balanus glandula), Maury Island, Tim DiChiara Honey bee (Apis mellifera), Maury Island, Tim DiChiara Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Point Robinson, Elizabeth VanDeventer Shield-backed kelp crab (Pugettia productus), Raab's Lagoon, Tim DiChiara Wooly bear caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella), Maury Island, Tim DiChiara Sundew (Drosera Rotundifolia), Whispering Firs Bog, Tim DiChiara Long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum), Neill Point Preserve, Tim DiChiara

Featured photo Western Tent Caterpillar Moth
Species details
Common name: Western Tent Caterpillar Moth
Scientific name: Malacosoma californicum
Other names: Malacosoma californica
Family: Lasiocampidae
Origin: Native
Status on Vashon: Common

Western Tent Caterpillars are easily recognized because they are social, colorful, active during the day, and build conspicuous silk tents in the branches of Vashon's trees.

The tent is constructed at a site that intercepts the early morning sun. The position of the tent is critical because the caterpillars must bask in the sun to elevate their temperatures above the cool ambient temperatures that occur in the early spring. 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, it returns to the tent, laying down a recruitment trail that serves to recruit hungry tent mates to its food find.

Caterpillars grow rapidly and typically complete their larval development in seven to eight weeks. When fully grown, the caterpillars leave the tree where they were born and seek protected places on the ground or under the eaves of buildings to spin their cocoons. About two weeks later, they emerge as adults. Although the male moth may live for a week or more, the female dies soon after laying her eggs. Thus, the whole of the female's adult life may take place in fewer than 24 hours.


More details: Encyclopedia of Life Wikipedia
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Biodiversity on Vashon Island, Washington, USA
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