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ETC in Kentucky Bluegrass

March 29, 2004

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Eastern Tent Caterpillar (ETC) season opened in the Kentucky Bluegrass this past weekend, and while it will not be as devastating as 2001, horse farms will be on the lookout for the little, brown, fury creepy crawlies, which have been blamed by many to have caused the death of hundreds of foals.

It has been three years since the breeding industry in Kentucky suffered the devastating blow of what has become known as Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS). While scientists at the University of Kentucky have yet to positively identify the cause of MRLS, their theory is that the caterpillar, in some way, is responsible.

The life of the ETC is short. They started hatching this past week. By late April to mid-May they will grow and begin to spin their cocoon. By mid-June they will have emerged from their cocoon, mated and died, their eggs left on tree branches for next year's cycle.

University of Kentucky scientists review their ongoing research during a public presentation at Keeneland Tuesday morning (March 30). Dan Potter, a professor in the university's Department of Entomology said the number Eastern Tent Caterpillars is on the decline. "It is definitely a down year," Potter said. "I think it will be about the same as last year." But, he warned, "I don't think you can let your guard down, yet." Research has shown that the ETC population goes up and down in cycles.
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