Tent caterpillars arrive in the spring as the new leaves start to bud. Their favorite trees to build their tents in are the wild cherry, crabapple, plum and peach trees. The caterpillars leave the tent and search the tree for leaves to eat, after feeding they return to the tent to digest their food.
The caterpillar must be warm to digest their food. This makes it necessary to always build their tents where they will get the early morning sun. They grow quickly, and it only takes them 7 or 8 weeks to start spinning their cocoons, and only 2 weeks later the adult moth emerges. As quickly as they mature, their life course comes to an end after laying her eggs, usually only 24 hours after emerging from the cocoon the female dies, the males live about 7 days. They are seldom seen in the moth stage.
Cause for Concern?
Tent caterpillar numbers vary wildly and when they are in large numbers people often become alarmed. Basically they are just an eyesore and not really a cause for concern. They have defoliated some trees almost completely, but the tree will almost always recover and grow new leaves.