Malacosoma californicum

Malacosoma californicum, the western tent caterpillar, is a moth of the family Lasiocampidae. It is a tent caterpillar. The Western Tent Caterpillar is found in southern Canada, the western United States, and parts of northern Mexico. There are currently six recognized subspecies of M. californicum.[1] Western tent caterpillars are gregarious and will spend a large portion of their time with other caterpillars in silken tents constructed during their larval stage.[2]

Western tent caterpillar
Western Tent Caterpillars (Malacosoma californicum).jpg
larvae
Phenological variation in western tent caterpillar moths
Adult
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Lasiocampidae
Genus: Malacosoma
Species:
M. californicum
Binomial name
Malacosoma californicum
Packard, 1864
Synonyms
  • Clisiocampa californica Packard, [1865]
  • Clisiocampa californica Walker, 1865
  • Bombyx pseudoneustria Boisduval, 1868
  • Clisiocampa thoracica Stretch, 1881
  • Clisiocampa fragilis var. perlutea Neumoegen & Dyar, 1893
  • Clisiocampa ambisimile Dyar, 1893
  • Clisiocampa pluvialis Dyar, 1893
  • Clisiocampa fragilis Stretch, 1881
  • Clisiocampa mus Neumoegen, 1893

Western tent caterpillars are univoltine, going through a single generation per year.[3][4] Adults emerge in the late summer to copulate and lay eggs. Adult moths will preferentially lay their eggs on the sunny side of their host trees.[5][6] Eggs will lay in diapause over the winter and hatch the following spring. Population sizes of western tent caterpillar can reach outbreak proportions, where populations reach very high numbers and large scale defoliation occurs.[6] Severe outbreaks can cause defoliation of host trees however, damage to trees is minimal and most trees will grow their leaves back quickly.[4][6]

DescriptionEdit

The mature Western Tent caterpillar pre-pupa is 4-5 centimeters long. The caterpillars are black, grey, or white with an orange stripe running longitudinally across the body. There are blue-white lines on each segment with dispersed setae extruding from the body. Pupae are 2-2.5 centimeters and reddish-brown to black in colour. Pupae spin a white silken cocoon, powdered in white and yellow. Adults have wingspan between 3.5-5 centimeters. Moths are brown, yellow, tan or grey, with two lighter or darker lines crossing the body.[1]

BiologyEdit

DietEdit

Western tent caterpillar larvae are generalist herbivores, feeding on leaves. However, diet preference is heavily dependent on geographical location. The tree in which a female deposits the eggs is where the larvae will choose to feed. The most common host plants that caterpillars feed on are leaves from stonefruit trees. However, larvae will feed on many other types of tree foliage. Adult moths do not eat and live for 1–4 days.[7]

ThermoregulationEdit

Western tent caterpillars are ectothermic, therefore they do not produce their own body heat and are heavily influenced by environmental temperatures. Larvae are thought to thermoregulate by basking in the sun and staying in close groups to elevate body temperature.[8] Increasing body temperature helps accelerate development time of caterpillars.[3]

BehaviourEdit

Early instar caterpillars are gregarious and remain as a family in silken tents. Aggregations of caterpillars are to discourage predation, increase temperature, and forage for food. During late instars caterpillars get larger and require more food resulting in a solitary behaviour. Caterpillars feed independently, and do not use tents for shelter.[9] Caterpillars flick their heads in response to the sound of fly parasites, as a defensive mechanism.[10]

ReproductionEdit

Moths will mate in mid-summer. Male-male competition will ensue for females. Females are polyandrous and lay a clutch of eggs sired by multiple males.[11] A single band of eggs is laid around the circumference of the branch. A single egg band can contain hundreds of eggs.[11]

 
Female M. californicum with egg mass

NucleopolyhedrovirusEdit

Nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV) is a virus that affects insects, mainly butterflies and moths. NPV has shown to decrease fitness and cause death.[8] The body of larvae that die from NPV become thin and liquidy.[12] Increased temperatures has shown to increase the prevalence of this virus.[8] NPV can be transferred from parent to offspring or from individuals that come into physical contact. Additionally, caterpillars can contract NPV by coming in contact with silk strands from other larvae.[11] NPV infections does not always kill the caterpillar and survival is much more likely in late instar caterpillar. NPV infected caterpillars have reduced fecundity.[8]

OutbreaksEdit

Outbreaks are caused when population sizes of larvae reach their highest levels. Population outbreaks of western tent caterpillar occur in cycles every 6–11 years.[6] Severe outbreaks can cause defoliation of host trees however, most trees will grow their leaves back quickly.[4][6] Outbreaks of western tent caterpillar can cause large scale defoliation of trees. The caterpillars are considered by many to be a problem when they reach outbreak population sizes. However, outbreaks of larvae are considered to be more of a nuisance than a problem and does not negatively affect forest health because trees are able to regrow leaves quickly.[6] Human suppression of western tent caterpillars is most successful when intervening before high population numbers are reached.[13] The exact cause of population outbreaks is not truly understood, but a combination of many factors are believed to play a role in population fluctuations such as weather, predators, and virus. However, NPV is believed to play the largest role in the boom-and-bust of population outbreak cycles. Outbreaks of NPV Epizootic disease play significant roles in controlling population sizes of western tent caterpillars As populations of western tent caterpillar increase the prevalence of the disease increases and causes the subsequent crash of a population.[12]

PhenologyEdit

Western tent caterpillars have strong ecological interactions with their host plants. The time of caterpillar egg-hatch is closely timed with host plant bud-burst to ensure that early instar larvae are able to feed on leaves. However, caterpillars can hatch up to two weeks before or after tree's buds have burst.[3] Due to effects of climate change it is predicted that there will be a phenological asynchrony between host tree and the western tent caterpillar, characterized by advancing larval emergence. This doesn't appear to have significant effects on caterpillar larvae fitness because larvae are resistant to starvation.[3]

SubspeciesEdit

  • Malacosoma californicum ambisimile (Dyar, 1893)
  • Malacosoma californicum californicum
  • Malacosoma californicum fragile (Stretch, 1881)
  • Malacosoma californicum lutescens (Neumoegen & Dyar, 1893)
  • Malacosoma californicum pluvialis (Dyar, 1893)
  • Malacosoma californicum recenseo Dyar, 1928

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Ciesla, William; Ragenovich,Iral (2008). "Western Tent Caterpillar". Forest Insect & Disease Leaflet. 119: 1–8.
  2. ^ Franklin, Michelle; Myers, Judith; Cory, Jenny (2014). "Genetic Similarity of Island Populations of Tent Caterpillars During Successive Outbreaks". PLOS ONE. 9 (5): 325–330. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096679. PMC 4032236. PMID 24858905.
  3. ^ a b c d Kharouba, Heather; Vellend, Marc; Sarfraz, Rana; Myers, Judith (2015). "The Effects of Experimental Warming on the Timing of a Plant-Insect Herbivore Interaction". Journal of Animal Ecology. 84 (3): 785–796. doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12328. PMID 25535854.
  4. ^ a b c Mitchell, Russel (1990). "Seasonal History of the Western Tent Caterpillar (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae) on Bitterbrush and Currant in Central Oregon". Journal of Economic Entomology. 83 (4): 1492–1494. doi:10.1093/jee/83.4.1492.
  5. ^ Moore, Lynn; Myers, Judith; Eng, Rex (1988). "Western Tent Caterpillars Prefer the Sunny Side of the Tree, but Why?". Oikos. 51 (3): 321–326. doi:10.2307/3565313. JSTOR 3565313.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Myers, Judith (2000). "Population fluctuations of western tent caterpillars in southwestern British Columbia". Population Ecology. 42: 231–241. doi:10.1007/pl00012002. S2CID 14703541.
  7. ^ Barnes, Elizabeth; Gosnell, Sarah; Hallagan, Claudia; Otten, Keelia; Slayter, Lainey; Murphy, Shannon (2016). "Performance of Western Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma californicum) on Two Common Host Plants, Including a New Host Plant Record". Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society. 70 (4): 277–282. doi:10.18473/lepi.70i4.a5. S2CID 4957934.
  8. ^ a b c d Frid, Leonardo; Myers, Judith (2002). "Thermal Ecology of Western Tent Caterpilalrs Malacosoma californicum pluviale and Infection by Nucleopolyhedrovirus". Ecological Entomology. 27 (6): 665–673. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2311.2002.00460.x.
  9. ^ Safraz, Rana; Cory, Jenny; Myers, Judith (2013). "Life-History Consequences and Disease Resistance of Western Tent Caterpillars in Response to Localised, Herbivore-Induced Changes in Alder Leaf Quality". Ecological Entomology. 38: 61–67. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2311.2012.01404.x. S2CID 86568249.
  10. ^ Myers, Judith; Smith, James (2011). "Head flicking by tent caterpillars: a defensive response to parasite sounds". Canadian Journal of Zoology. 56: 1628–1631. doi:10.1139/z78-225.
  11. ^ a b c Franklin, Michelle; Ritland, Carol; Myers, Judith; Cory, Jenny (2012). "Multiple Mating and Family Structure of the Western Tent Caterpillar, Malacosoma californicum pluviale: Impact on Disease Resistance". PLOS ONE. 7 (5): e37472. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037472. PMC 3360058. PMID 22655050.
  12. ^ a b Cory, Jenny; Myers, Judith (2009). "Within and between population variation in disease resistance in cyclic populations of western tent caterpillars: a test of the disease defence hypothesis". Journal of Animal Ecology. 78 (3): 646–655. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2656.2008.01519.x. PMID 19220564.
  13. ^ Thompson, W.A.; Vertinsky, I.B.; Wellington, W.G. (1981). "Intervening in pest outbreaks: simulation studies with the western tent caterpillar". Researches on Population Ecology. 23: 27–38. doi:10.1007/bf02514091. S2CID 7798127.

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