Caterpillars Threaten Horse Industry Once Again

May 14, 2014

Anyone involved in the equine industry will want to pay attention to the recent boom in the Eastern Tent Caterpillar population.

Over a decade ago, these pesky critters made their way into the stomachs of pregnant mares and caused a surge of aborted pregnancies.  They are on roughly a ten-year cycle, so it’s time for their return.  Professor Lee Townsend is with the Department of Entomology at the University of Kentucky.  “What we’ve seen over the last ten to twelve years is a gradual increase and this year a big jump.  It’s very common to see Tent Caterpillars in cherry trees, along fence lines and roadways this spring.” 

The time in which the caterpillars are harmful to the horses, is when they are leaving their cocoons in search of shelter.  “It’s pregnant mares that are the real concern, making sure that they have minimal contact with caterpillars.”

Keeping the mares as far away as possible from lines of trees, fence lines and roadways will help keep them out of harms way.  The bugs are not harmful to humans in any way.  You will most likely see them on your front porch or in your back yard. If you are concerned by them, common insecticides are effective, but not necessary.  They will turn into moths roughly three weeks after entering the cocoon phase.  No beautiful butterflies here.