The moth overwinters as a pupa within a silk cocoon that is hidden under loose edges of bark. The adult moth emerges in the spring with warm weather, usually as early as March in southern regions and May in northern regions. Females then deposit a mass of up to 1,500 eggs on the underside of a leaf on the host tree, covering the eggs with hairs from her abdomen. The larvae undergo as many as 11 molts before maturity and spin small webs around themselves as they feed. In heavy infestations these webs from all the larvae may ultimately enclose an entire tree. When mature the larvae often leave the host tree and wander over the ground and other surfaces nearby, often pupating on surfaces around the tree during warm season generations. They feed on a wide variety of deciduous trees including ash, hickory, oak, maple, poplar, willow, walnut, and others. In cooler regions there may be 1 generation per year but up to 4 generations in warm southern areas where the adult moths may be active year-round. When disturbed the larvae on a tree participate in unison in a defensive movement where they rapidly jerk the front of their body around.
The use of chemical sprays is often necessary to kill the larvae, including both synthetic insecticides as well as natural materials such as Bacillus thuringiensis. Sprays should be directed onto the larvae and their silk web nests, with only a light application needed rather than attempting to remove the webbing with a strong spray. Light infestations will rarely cause harm to a tree and spraying may not be called for.