While out in the woods a couple of weeks ago I came across this unique rolled-up tree leaf. I recognized it as the work of a leafroller moth (family Tortricidae).
More specifically, this was the work of a leaf-roller moth caterpillar. These insect larvae roll leaves together and fasten them with their silk, creating shelters that they feed and later pupate inside. (Did I note the identity of the tree this moth used? Of course not, and now I can’t identify it from the photos. *sigh*)
With winter approaching, it seemed as if this caterpillar was of a species that overwinters in the larval stage. It’s possible it could overwinter as a pupa, if it had time to pupate (low temperatures got below freezing less than two weeks after these photos were taken).
These caterpillars are economically important pests of many ornamental and fruit trees. In large numbers they can lead to extensive leaf damage and defoliation. Luckily many other insects feed on and control them, including parasitoid wasps, tachinid flies, lacewings, assassin bugs, and some beetles.