Tent caterpillar moths and lappet moths are medium-sized, with thick, long scales that make them look furry. The abdomen generally extends past the tips of the wings when they are folded back over the body. Most are shades of brown, tan, or gray, with camouflage markings that help them blend in with tree bark or other natural surfaces. Both males and females have feathery antennae. On either side of the mouth, fingerlike labial palps project forward, and the strawlike proboscis is undeveloped or missing entirely; adults do not feed. The females are like males in color and pattern, but they are considerably larger, with broader wings, and they are usually rather weak fliers.
The caterpillars are very hairy, colorful, and striped lengthwise. In several species in this family, the larvae build communal webby “tents” in trees and shrubs using silk that they spin. They leave the tent to feed on leaves of the host tree or other nearby trees. The larvae of some species may live in groups but not build a “tent.”
Examples of Missouri’s lasiocampids include the eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum), forest tent caterpillar (M. disstria), and large tolype (Tolype velleda). The American lappet moth (Phyllodesma americana), with its wavy-edged, gray and rust-colored wings, looks like a small dead leaf.
Lasiocampids are sometimes called “snout moths” because of mouthparts that protrude forward from the head. Crambids and pyralid moths are also called “snout moths” for the same reason.