tent caterpillars, penguin caterpillar, Malacosoma disstrium (2)

Photo: Flickr user anbmeyer

tent caterpillars, penguin caterpillar, Malacosoma disstrium (3)

Photo: Katiemoon

tent caterpillars, penguin caterpillar, Malacosoma disstrium (4)

Photo: Flickr user Melanie

Habitat: throughout the United States and Canada
Status: No Conservation Concerns

Grab your ugly Christmas sweaters boys and girls, because these Forest Tent Caterpillars (Malacosoma disstria) have just invited you to one heck of a party. At only 2 inches in length, these cute, fuzzy little fellows look like they would be so much fun to hang with, especially since they’re all decked out in the season’s best – PENGUIN SWEATERS!

That’s right. Behold. Forest tent caterpillars are literally cloaked in ugly christmas sweaters that feature dancing penguins. I tell no lies.

tent caterpillars, penguin caterpillar, Malacosoma disstrium (5)

Photo: Flickr user 65mb

But, just as any Christmas party guest… they’re fun to have over for a while… but eventually, you’re like k, you need to go home now. Especially when your invited guest decided to hatch along with their 200+ siblings. You see, tent caterpillars don’t exactly build tents, but rather, weave silky sheets where they lie together during molting.The caterpillars are incredibly social, doing everything as a team. In fact, they’re nomadic and forage as a group which means that if one caterpillar is hungry, all of them set out on a quest to fill the lil guy’s tum tum with leaves of yum yum (I don’t know).

Here’s the problem, though: these guys have voracious appetites and will literally eat every single leaf off of a tree. Typically trees can recover if the infestation is not recurring… but if it is… man, oh man can they wreak havoc!

The photos below were taken during an outbreak in Fort McMurray, Canada, in 2007. Needless to say it was pretty intense…

tent caterpillars, penguin caterpillar, Malacosoma disstrium (10)

Photo: conceptart.org forum, user dkounios

tent caterpillars, penguin caterpillar, Malacosoma disstrium (9)

Photo: conceptart.org forum, user dkounios

tent caterpillars, penguin caterpillar, Malacosoma disstrium (8)

Photo: conceptart.org forum, user dkounios

tent caterpillars, penguin caterpillar, Malacosoma disstrium (11)

Photo: conceptart.org forum, user dkounios

Soo yeah. Next time you see a caterpillar wearing a penguin sweater wandering by, look around, because there may be 2392384203482905 more right behind you.