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Eastern Tent Caterpillar Hatch Occurring Early in Kentucky, Horsemen Cautious By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · March 16, 2012

Eastern tent caterpillar eggs have begun to hatch several weeks ahead of their normal schedule because of central Kentucky’s unseasonable warm February weather.

According to entomologists at the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, the hatch will be complete in early March, with the characteristic white “tents” appearing by the middle of the month. The caterpillars are found mostly on wild cherry trees, and control is most effective while the tents are small (baseball-sized or less) and before the caterpillars leave the tent area to feed on developing leaves.

Research conducted at the University of Kentucky proved that the caterpillars were the cause of mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS), a malady that devastated the foal crop a decade ago in Kentucky. Affected late-pregnant mares delivered weak or dead foals, and early-pregnant mares suffered pregnancy losses. The total economic impact totaled more than $330 million.