Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Originally described in 1848 by Philipp Christoph Zeller
as Tetralopha robustella
Southern Canada, Eastern US from Minnesota to New England and south to Florida.
Caterpillars feed on the needles of various pines
Eggs are laid on the flat sides of pine needles- usually in first or second-year seedlings- with the young larvae mining the insides of the needles until they outgrow them. At that time they spin a nest of silk webbing and frass, which they share with others, gathering needles from around their nest and bringing them back to the nest to eat.
When ready to pupate they crawl to the ground and spin a cocoon in the soil, passing the winter in this state in cooler climates. Eventually they emerge as moths to mate, lay eggs, and start the cycle over again. In the south they can have as many as 3 generations per year, but in the north they have just one.
Natural enemies keep them from being a serious pest under normal circumstances, with the damage being mostly cosmetic- though they can completely strip the needles from smaller seedlings.