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May 2, 2003

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Update

Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist
Department of Entomology
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

The first mature eastern tent caterpillars have finished feeding and are leaving trees to complete their life cycle. Dispersing caterpillars will be in a "restless" state and will crawl until hormonal clues cause them to stop and begin to spin the cocoons in which they will pupate and transform to a moth. Dispersal direction is nearly random and the distance travelled will vary greatly among individuals. Wandering caterpillars will orient to and climb dark, vertical objects such as tree trunks and fence posts.

Many tent caterpillars still have some feeding to do before reaching the wandering stage so this activity will continue for the next two to three weeks.

Photo Credit: Steve Patton UK Ag Communications

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