Eastern Tent Caterpillar Eggs Hatching in Central Kentucky

Pregnant mares consuming large numbers of Eastern tent caterpillars caused staggering early- and late-term foal losses and weak foals during the mare reproductive loss syndrome (often referred to as MRLS) outbreak of 1999-2001.
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eastern tent caterpillar eggs
Eastern tent caterpillars have begun to hatch in Central Kentucky, with the first instances being seen in Lexington on March 24. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Lee Townsend
Eastern tent caterpillars (or ETCs) have begun to hatch in Central Kentucky, with the first instances being seen in Lexington on March 24, said Daniel Potter, PhD, professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Potter said that, after spending about nine months in eggs masses on twigs of wild cherry and related trees, the first tiny caterpillars of the season are now leaving their eggs. The larvae are among the first insects to become active in the spring and are well-equipped to cope with Kentucky’s erratic temperature swings.

Entomology researchers at UK entomology researchers said the egg hatch occurs over several weeks in early spring, which increases the chance for survival in case of late freezes. The caterpillars grow and develop when the temperature is above 37 degrees F. Their preferred food plants are wild cherry, apple, and crabapple, but they can be found on hawthorn, maple, cherry, peach, pear, and plum trees, as well.

When mature, the 2- to 2.5-inch long hairy caterpillars wander from their host trees to seek protected areas to spin their cocoons or seek additional food if their natal tree becomes defoliated. At such times, they can crawl along fence lines and into pastures

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