Warmer winter could lead to early hatching for Eastern Tent Caterpillar

RICHMOND, Ky. (WKYT) - From destroying landscaping to causing infections in horses- Eastern Tent Caterpillars can be a nuisance. Experts are now saying warm winter temperatures could have them hatching earlier than normal.

Dr. Luke Dodd is the Assistant Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Eastern Kentucky University. He says with temperatures about 20-degrees above seasonal average this winter, we could see a big batch of tent caterpillar hatchings any day now.

"These caterpillars just inherently, come out in full force, all at once. So what we see is an early, early spring when bud-break first occurs, when foliage first begins to flush, that's when these caterpillars come out."

Dr. Dodd says Eastern Tent Caterpillars are mostly harmless to people and pets. However, they can be harmful to pregnant horses. The Eastern Tent Caterpillar is linked to mare reproductive loss syndrome which had a major impact on the horse industry in 2001. Caterpillar hairs embedded during digestion can cause infection in a pregnant horse, leading the mares to lose their foals.

Dr. Dodd says if you want to get rid of those caterpillars, all you have to do is take a stick, and spin it around that nest, and manually remove it to tackle the problem. Experts also say you can use a bio-rational insecticide on shade trees to get rid of the caterpillars after they hatch.

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