The Forest Tent Caterpillar

Species: Malacosoma disstria     

Chrissy Bowker of Texas asks, “What’s this animal?”

The caterpillar in the picture above is none other than the Forest Tent Caterpillar, Malacosoma disstriaThey are commonplace in the eastern regions of US and Canada. Down in Texas, populations are sure to be booming this spring due to the warmer than average winter.

3-21 egg mass
Photo credit: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service,

Adult females lay eggs on the branches of deciduous trees in masses of around 300, which are coated with a rubber cement like adhesive to protect them from predators and the environment.

When they hatch, they will strip the tree of leaves, moving about in a line fashion by following a pheromone trail laid by silk strand by their fellow caterpillars. They weave a silken mat between the branches which they lie in together during molt as they grow (up to 2 inches).

Tent Caterpillar nest Photo Credit: Jesse Varner, Flickr

Much like an owl pellet, you can dissect these masses (after they’ve been abandoned, of course) and peel through they layers to reveal molt casings and dropping indicative of growth stage, increasing in size as you move outwards.

Forest Tent Caterpillars have the potential to defoliate vast areas of forest when the conditions are right. Though this is more rare than common, it is part of the reason for their infamous reputation as a pest-defoliater. About 5 week after hatching, the caterpillars change to pupae and live inside of their individual cocoons for about 10 days. As adults, they are average sized, relatively non-descript, brown moths, living for only a few days. Just enough time to mate, and lay a new batch of eggs.

Photo Credit: Seabrooke Leckie, Flickr

Have a picture of an animal or plant and can’t seem to figure out what it is? Send it my way and I’ll identify it for you! Send submissions to or message ‘The Wild Life’ on Facebook.

Eco-Break S1E2: The History of Life on Earth, Part 1

14 billion years ago, the universe as we know it didn’t exist. It was smaller than an atom and more hot and dense than anything we could imagine and then…BANG! The Big Bang, in less than a second, the most fantastic mess of all time was made, expanding outward to create the wonders of the cosmos. If it gives you an idea of just how big this explosion was, the universe is still expanding even now. But today isn’t about the history of the universe, it’s about the history of life! So for that, we move on to ancient earth.

On Eco-Break S1E2, Part 1, Devon summarizes the history of life beginning at the Big Bang and leading up to the Cambrian Explosion.

Eco-Break is an educational series which delivers the most exciting, key, and need-to-know basics of ecology, biology, and the natural world.

3 Ways to Get to Mailbox Zero

I have seen this image in different incarnations and I laugh every time because it speaks so much truth. Me? I can be both. I have a tendency to allow emails to build up, especially if I know they are junk mail, and have a twice weekly purge session to get rid of the annoying red alert icons.


A lot of people want to be an “inbox zero” kind of person, but what about “mailbox zero”? Ask yourself, how often do you check the mail and how much of it ends up in the bin? Ask my wife, I am obsessive about checking the mail because I never want to miss anything important, but the reality is that 9 times out of 10 the mailbox is packed to the gills with coupons, credit card offers, and a subscription to Seventeen magazine that I NEVER SIGNED UP FOR. Well, today is your lucky day because I’m here to tell you three ways that you can get to mailbox zero.

Say “Bye, Bye” to Bills

Don’t light the fireworks just yet. I don’t mean you can make your bills disappear, though who wouldn’t love that? What you can do, however, is switch to e-billing and paperless statements. The average household receives almost 7 lbs of paper in bills each year (JouleBug). It might not sound like a ton, but multiply that by 125.82 million (number of US households in 2016, US Census) and that’s 880.74 million pounds of bills! More information on

Crush Those Annoying Catalogs

Download the Paper Karma app, or visit and to get rid of those pesky catalogs clogging up your mailbox. Best part? It’s free!

Don’t Take the Credit

You’re pre-approved…to get rid of unwanted credit card offers! Did you know that 46% of credit card offers are discarded without even being looked at? (JouleBug) Probably not hard to imagine since you more than likely do the same. Download Paper Karma app or opt out at

Environmental Bonus

If you do each of these things, your help the environment by:

Saving 270 lbs of CO2

Diverting 84 lbs of waste

and saving 786 gallons of water

Every. Single. Year.

For the breakdown on the numbers, download JouleBug for free from the Apple App Store or from Google Play.