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Eastern tent caterpillar eggs hatching across Central Kentucky

Entomologists at the University of Kentucky say that the eastern tent caterpillar eggs are beginning to hatch across Central Kentucky.
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 3:25 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Entomologists at the University of Kentucky say that the eastern tent caterpillar eggs are beginning to hatch across Central Kentucky.

They’re among some of the first insects to do so this early in the year in our region.

While the eastern tent caterpillar can be a nuisance for any homeowner, it’s a major concern for horse owners after it caused a staggering number of foal losses nearly 20 years ago.

That’s why UK entomologists continue to track its population each year.

From 1991 through 2001 the Mare Reproduction Loss Syndrome outbreak occurred due to the eastern tent caterpillars having much higher populations than normal.

While the caterpillars’ primary food sources are among wild cherry, apple, and crabapple trees, if those trees become defoliated, they’ll go in search of other food sources which oftentimes leads them through horse pastures.

According to experts, it’s the large consumption of these caterpillars that leads to issues in horses

“They could leave the tree and end up in sort of the paddock area or where ever the horses are feeding and they are very hairy once they get bigger and those hairs do seem to have an irritating effect according to the PAT’s research on the horses, which may have induced them to abort their foals,” said Jonathan Larson, Extension Entomologist with the University of Kentucky.

Larson tells us that while some conditions are favorable for the population of eastern tent caterpillars to grow in, it’s always hard to forecast when another outbreak could occur since they’re so infrequent.

For horse farm owners with pregnant mares, entomologists say to move horses from any of these trees caterpillars are found and insecticides may be needed to control any infested trees.

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