The eastern tent caterpillars, Malacosoma americanum are on their way out! The larvae of this species will congregate to construct a protective silken tent, usually in the fork of a tree branch. They particularly like to build tents in black cherry, apple, and crabapple trees, all of which are in the rose family. If you find tents in your trees, you need to spray (check out pesticides such as Malathion) to eliminate the multitudes of caterpillars that are maturing and will begin to consume the foliage as they emerge. After defoliating trees (and dropping on your head), these caterpillars will spin a cocoon and eventually develop into “small to medium-sized”, heavy-bodied, rather hairy, brownish moths about three weeks later.
Yes, there are birds which enjoy tent caterpillars at mealtime. Especially fond of these creatures are the cuckoos. In fact, Bird Watcher’s Digest (2002, vol. 24(5): 40) says cuckoo breeding abundance depends on the availability of caterpillars, especially tent caterpillars. In our area, we have the yellow-billed cuckoo; the black-billed breeds in eastern Kentucky.