The synchrony between emergence of spring-active, insect herbivores and the budburst of their host plants could be affected by warming temperatures with influences on the availability and quality of foliage as it undergoes physical and chemical changes. This can affect the growth and survival of insects. Here, we used sun-exposed and shaded trees to determine whether the synchrony between egg hatch of western tent caterpillar, Malacosoma californicum pluviale Dyar (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae) and budburst of its host red alder, Alnus rubra Bongard (Betulaceae) changes with different thermal environments (temperature and light together). To explore the potential outcome of a shift in phenological synchrony, we used laboratory assays of larval growth and survival to determine the effect of variation in young, youthful and mature leaves from sun-exposed and shaded trees. While the average higher temperature of sun-exposed trees advanced the timing of budburst and egg hatch, synchrony was not disrupted. Leaf quality had no significant influence on growth or survival in the laboratory for early instars reared as family groups. Later instar larvae, however, performed best on mature leaves from sun-exposed trees. The robust relationship between leaf and larval development of western tent caterpillars suggests that warming climates may not have a strong negative impact on their success through shifts in phenological synchrony, but might influence other aspects of leaf quality and larval condition.