Leaf Munchers

By William T. Hathaway

Leaf Munchers

There are hundreds of caterpillars inhabiting our local area. They range in size from minute to large.

The White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar is a common species that feeds chiefly on a wide variety of trees. It is a serious pest of forest and shade trees. Females emerge from cocoons and lay eggs on nearby tree trunks or branches. This species survives winters while in the egg stage.

The Yellow-necked Caterpillar (lower photo) tends to feed in groups with every caterpillar twitching at the same time when the group is disturbed. This semi-curled specimen is in a defensive posture — an interesting characteristic of the species. It feeds on a variety of host plants including maple, elm, cherry, oak and crabapple.

Many caterpillars are so well camouflaged that they escape human observation.