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Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Malacosoma americanum


Seen here crawling across a Eastern Box Turtle. "The eastern tent caterpillar is of some importance as a pest because it defoliates ornamental trees. Damaged trees, however, typically recover and refoliate within several weeks. Few birds other than cuckoos find the hairy caterpillars palatable. The moths oviposit almost exclusively on trees in the plant family Rosaceae, particularly cherry (Prunus) and apple (Malus). "


"The eastern tent caterpillar is toxic to horses. It has been linked to mare reproductive loss syndrome in horses, but the exact mechanism by which the caterpillar triggers abortion has yet to be determined. Experimental studies have shown that when pregnant mares are fed eastern tent caterpillars, they abort. The caterpillars of this species often feed on the highly cyanogenic black cherry tree (Prunus serotina) and the mares were originally thought to abort in response to the cyanide they consumed along with the caterpillars. However, that hypothesis was disproved. In another study, the necropsy of a mare fed eastern tent caterpillars showed fragments of the caterpillar's setae had embedded in the gut wall, and it was hypothesized that they may facilitate the passage of infective agents from the horse's gut into the bloodstream and then to the placenta, triggering abortion."

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Spotted by

Virginia, USA

Spotted on May 30, 2013
Submitted on Jul 2, 2013

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