Eastern Tent Caterpillar by Jersey City Photographer Jonathan Carroll / by Jonathan Carroll

 Eastern Tent Caterpillar interacting with silk nest |  Photography by Jonathan Carroll

Eastern Tent Caterpillar interacting with silk nest |  Photography by Jonathan Carroll

Every year, a few weeks into spring most people notice a familiar sight in the fork of certain trees.  For me, spotting the nest typically meant I should look down at the ground and make sure I don't kill any caterpillar with my giant feet; but I took a different approach this year.  I've always been interested in things on a microscopic scale because it's impossible to experience without help.  Who doesn't like the rare and the beautiful?  In a way, microscopic space is one of the ultimate luxuries human beings are able to experience, and why it continues to be a major focus of my artistic journey as a photographer .

 Eastern Tent Caterpillar rests on the outer layer of a silk nest with at least 50 other caterpillar underneath | Photography by Jonathan Carroll

Eastern Tent Caterpillar rests on the outer layer of a silk nest with at least 50 other caterpillar underneath | Photography by Jonathan Carroll

Even if you do walk up to the tree, and look with all of your might, you will still fall short of experiencing the beauty of this system the Eastern Tent Caterpillar has developed.  Within each nest are different layers of silk that provide varying levels of warmth and protection.  If the caterpillar gets too warm, it can simply adjust its body temperature by heading to a different layer of the nest.  When I processed the photographs, I could not believe the amount of caterpillars under a single nest!

 Eastern Tent Caterpillar Poop | Photograph by Jonathan Carroll

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Poop | Photograph by Jonathan Carroll

Unfortunately, the sewage system is a bit, nonexistent.

 Eastern Tent Caterpillar Instar | Photograph by Jonathan Carroll

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Instar | Photograph by Jonathan Carroll

I started to notice what appeared to be casualties stuck to branches, but turned out to be a previous form of the same caterpillar.  In order to grow, they shed their exoskeleton, and the new "body" will have more segments.  The phase between molting is referred to as instar.

 Misty morning in Liberty State Park, Jersey City NJ | Photograph by Jonathan Carroll

Misty morning in Liberty State Park, Jersey City NJ | Photograph by Jonathan Carroll

Next time you're in Jersey City, be sure to visit Liberty State Park for a healthy escape from city life.  Plenty of marked trails feature trees with Eastern Tent Caterpillar, but don't be surprised if you don't see them out later in the day.  Predators have a greater chance of catching them, so they tend to hide in the nest.

This is why the planet is worth fighting for.  Be sure to check out the full series at:  

https://www.imjoncarroll.com/tentcaterpillar/