Sunday, May 16, 2010

Eastern Tent Caterpillars

Some of you may be wondering just exactly what you are seeing here in this picture above. Others know exactly what I have here. What you see in the picture above are Eastern Tent Caterpillars. I've been finding them all over the forest this year. Last year I only found their empty tents, but no caterpillars. Now those tents are very full.

These caterpillars are considered to be pests. Every several years an outbreak of these caterpillars occurs, and they can quickly defoliate a plant or tree once they get started eating. There is one good thing about this situation though. The plant they eat the leaves off of almost always recovers just fine. Their only real permanent damage is their ugliness.

People who have cherry or apple trees on their property that are intended for decoration most likely hate these eastern tent caterpillars with a passion. These caterpillars will strip their poor trees of all of their leaves in quick fashion. The best way to get rid of them is to simply tear up their tent-like nest with a stick.

Even with all this talk of them being pests, I still found them very interesting to look at. This is the first year I've been able to watch them, and I don't often get to see caterpillars at all. So far I've seen only one type of caterpillar each year, and I've been looking for them desperately.

You may have noticed that I'm showing you two different nests of these creatures. I have two different reasons for doing so. First, I saw at least half a dozen of these tents in the same forest. So I wanted to show you more than one. The second reason is a big problem I've been having.

The problem is with my fancy new camera. You see, I've been having trouble getting closeup shots of any kind. I've been trying everything I can think of, but I can't do macro shots with it. The first tent just would not focus when I was close. This camera is supposed to be good at this kind of thing, but it obviously works differently than my old camera. I also can't seem to get manual focus to help.

So my solution has been to experiment quite a bit at home, and I'll continue with some of what I've learned the next time I go out. I hope I'll be back very soon with some excellent macro shots for you. Maybe a kind squirrel will let me stick my camera right up to its face. Yeah right!

21 comments:

  1. Ratty fascinating. No doubt they are hungry little fellows and a pest as well. Nice shots.

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  2. Gosh, Ratty, I don't like these caterpillars very much. I have visions of collapsing in the forest and having these caterpillars throws a tent over me and consuming me entirely. Yuck!

    Jo and I were out Friday, talking about you as we got shots of a robin and some frenzied squirrels!

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  3. The first picture looks like someone has hung a t-shirt out to dry in the forest...lol. These seem like fascinating creatures. Are the eggs laid in these 'tents'? or are these made by the butterflies/moths??? Is there a purpose for the tents??? What sort of butterfly/moth do they become??

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  4. One is good, two are still ok, a big number is certainly creepy.

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  5. yayyyyy....they weird and creepy

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  6. Wow..that's a huge tent, and these creepy crawlers are just yike...but your photos turned out fantastic.

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  7. Your photos are great but I have to say your subject is a little creepy :) They are fascinating though so long as I don't have them eating all the leaves off of my trees.

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  8. When I moved here these caterpillars were a huge problem. Now I hardly ever see them. Insect eating birds love them.

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  9. The tent caterpillars were really bad here in western New England last year. I've seen a few nests this year, but really it isn't too bad. You'd think the birds would pick them off when they are exiting the tent, but no such luck!

    Bill:www.wildramblings.com

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  10. What kind of new camera did you get Ratty? I just bought a Canon 50d DSLR and have only two lens so far...I want to get a macro lens..did you buy one yet???

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  11. First of all, that shot is straight out of a horror movie. I thought it was a massive spider web. Creepy!

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  12. I think your photos are great. But like everyone else, I don't like the caterpillars. I sure hope they don't find their way to my house. At least they don't kill whatever they build their tent on.
    Hope you have a great day.

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  13. Wow, what an amazing sight. Everything I visit your blog I am blown away by the photos, today is no exception!

    Thanks for the education and the entertainment.

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  14. You didn't say what you were shooting with. If it is a point and shoot you don't want to zoom for macro with many, just use regular lens close.Macro lens shoots a slower speed and f setting so I hate to say it this way but you need to look up settings in the book.Never care for reading directions.

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  15. Now I am curious about what these guys and gals look like as butterflies or moths... I'll go check. Very interesting stuff today.

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  16. Those caterpillars grow into fluffy moths, my favorite indoor prey! I wonder they are anywhere near as delicious as the adults, or if they taste unripe, like green fruit tastes to humans.

    As for the macro... what Prairie said, probably. The point-and-shoot camera my human has that she is about to replace is a Canon PowerShot A620, which came out in late 2005 (it's actually still a good camera, but she wants HD and more zoom), and yeah, the zoom has to be off when the macro is on. Although you would think in 5 years' time, they would make it work more efficiently and be more user friendly. Let us know how it works out!

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  17. Oh my. The caterpillars are huge! Your pictures look great even though you said you have problem with the micro shoot :)

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  18. We hate those nests here. One year I was driving up the big hill here and they were overhanging the road and some of those caterpillars fell on my windshield. They gross me out..Ha! But you got some excellent photos of them Ratty.

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  19. Please share your tips on getting this camera to do good closeups if you get any. I'm really frustrated.

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  20. Ratty, first, these little guys are not my favorites but I thank you for the information. I always like learning about these. Second, on your new camera, does it have a macro setting? With regular macro, you can get within 5 to 6 inches of the subject and take the shot. If you have super macro, you can get within a half an inch for a shot. You have to override the auto settings and set them manually. Also, I'm sure your little squirrely diva friends would let you get as close as you want :)

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  21. This post gave me goosebumps. =D Though their tents are so mysterious and fascinating.

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