Forest tent caterpillars start their lives as eggs laid in shiny brown bands of 100 to 300 around twigs. Caterpillars emerge as new leaves begin to appear and begin feeding and constructing their nests immediately. During the five or six weeks of the caterpillar stage, they go through four moults. After the last moult, the caterpillars spin yellowish cocoons in some sheltered place in which the final transformation to moth takes place. Moths emerge from the cocoons after about 10 days to mate, lay eggs and then die.
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