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*** Breeders Beware ***

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  • #21
    Interesting...I had never heard that the tussock moth was dangerous before...but I had my own theory after we had a stillbirth. We have had years where there are tons of them in our Oak trees. Ugh...more to worry about.
    Whispered Wish Weser-Ems: Breeding quality German Riding Ponies!
    Standing the stallion Burberry


    • #22
      Just as a random bit of fact, on what the moths of these things look like:

      Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

      Tussock Moth

      Western Tent Caterpillar Moth

      Forest Tent Moth

      Just to reassure people planting butterfly bushes.

      Anything you would identify as a butterfly is most likely not related to these buggers at all.
      "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

      My CANTER blog.


      • #23
        Originally posted by DeirdreT View Post
        Remember that it isn't just the Eastern Tent Caterpillar that are causing MRLS - it's caterpillar's from that family. If you have Tussock Moth Caterpillar's, Western Tent, Forest Tent, they are also dangerous to the unborn fetus. And it's not just Cherry Trees - it's shade trees too.

        I have two types of caterpillar on my farm and hundreds of trees.
        Are the caterpillars actually dangerous when not eating members of the Prunus family?


        "Factors significantly associated with an
        increased risk of excessive early fetal losses were
        exposure to moderate to high concentrations of
        Eastern tent caterpillars, exposure to cherry trees"

        from this paper "Case-control study of factors associated with
        excessive proportions of early fetal losses
        associated with mare reproductive loss
        syndrome in central Kentucky during 2001"

        And yet....

        Originally posted by Lord Helpus View Post
        We lost a much anticipated foal in 2001 from MRLS. Starting in the fall (I believe that leaves? of wild chery trees are poisonous to horses. Since it is hard to pick up every leaf, Ky farm owners did the spot by spot killing in the spring).

        Then, in the fall, there was a wholesale cutting and burning of the wild cherry trees throughout the Bluegrass. Thousands of tress where cut down -- At the time it was a horrible massacre of lovely trees, but Ky has not had a reappearanc of MRLS since.
        Wiki has a link to a paper I can't access (Manu, S. (2011). Chapter 85 - mare reproductive loss syndrome. In Ramesh C. Gupta (Ed.), Reproductive and developmental toxicology (pp. 1139-1144). San Diego: Academic Press. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-382032-7.10085-2). Here's a synopsis from wiki:

        "The presence of eastern tent caterpillars (ETCs) was correlated with the MRLS abortions. [1] One of the primary foods for ETCs are black cherry tree leaves. An experimental study to prove the cause and effect relationship with ETCs and MRLS was confirmed when all mares exposed to ETCs (by being fed fresh black cherry tree leaves) aborted and none of the control mares had aborted."

        Never mind, I found this on the UK website:

        "A series of studies over the next five years has subsequently revealed that horses will inadvertently eat the caterpillars and that the caterpillar hairs embed into the lining of the alimentary tract. Once that protective barrier is breached, normal alimentary tract bacteria may gain access to and reproduce in sites with reduced immunity, such as the fetus and placenta. Fetal death from these alimentary tract bacteria is the hallmark of MRLS."

        The good news is that the eastern tent caterpillars are easy to spot.


        • Original Poster

          It is my understanding that are dangerous at all times while they are in the caterpillar phase of their life, because of those little hairs on their body that are actually barbed. They penetrate the embryonic sac and the placenta, thus allowing bacterium to infect the fetus.


          • #25
            Thanks, I have just found this (also posted above)

            "A series of studies over the next five years has subsequently revealed that horses will inadvertently eat the caterpillars and that the caterpillar hairs embed into the lining of the alimentary tract. Once that protective barrier is breached, normal alimentary tract bacteria may gain access to and reproduce in sites with reduced immunity, such as the fetus and placenta. Fetal death from these alimentary tract bacteria is the hallmark of MRLS. "

            on the Univ of Kentucky website.

            Eastern Tent Caterpillars are definitely worse some years than others. At least they are pretty easy to spot because of their communal tents, though not easy to reach or treat. I've noticed them already on one of our wild crabapple trees, and some rare years they fill the local pecan trees.


            • #26
              Originally posted by Derid View Post
              VirginiaBred is correct the best and cheapest way to kill tent caterpillars (=Lasiocampid moths) is to burn them out of the tree. However if you are uncomfortable with fire, you can also use your fly spray if it contains pyrethroids, not the natural the sprays. Saturate the bag, not such that it is dripping, but so the caterpillars crawling in the bag will contact the poison. AS you spray the bag, you will see the caterpillars reacting (dying) by dropping from point of contact. You may need to apply a second or third dose if the bag is excessively large and the caterpillars are big (gone through 3-4 molts). Obviously the best time to treat is when you first notice the bag and tiny caterpillars. If you see caterpillars on trees other than Cherrys and Plums, it's not tent caterpillars. Also, the caterpillars stay in the "bag" for a period of time, so check your cherry and plum trees today, and be vigilant throughout Spring.
              The part I bolded isn't entirely accurate. When I was a kid, dad maintained 15 acres of fruit on our farm and so I am intimately familiar with the various pests that afflict fruit bearing trees, whether commercial or ornamentals.

              The Tent Caterpillar is a rather large genus, and it is not just the Eastern that causes problems. All of the tent genus will. Tent caterpillars reside in every state in the USA and every province in Canada, including the far north. The Eastern Tent lives in the eastern states, although it seems to be on the move west, but ALL Tent Caterpillars have hooks on their hairs, which can imbed into the soft tissues of the GI tract, and the hairs carry bacteria which cause infections and abortions if accidently ingested by livestock.

              Also, Tent Caterpillars like any soft-fruit tree or crabs, not just cherries and plums, although they are particularly fond of these 2 in particular - both commercial and ornamentals. They will also use berry trees and shrubs. I have even seen them in Mountain Ash (which produces an edible orange berry) and blueberry bushes. They also happen to like sugar maples and some other maple trees too. A large infestation of tents can completely defoliate a sugar maple tree.

              The other point not often realized is they leave the tent daily to go foraging for food, returning to the tent at night. They also leave the tent to pupate in tall grass or other parts of trees, buildings, etc.

              Tent caterpillars build 2 different types of silk tents - - either in a series of smaller tents incorporating the terminal ends of branches, the leaves and fruits, or 1 big tent at the crook of branches (a node). The Eastern tent caterpillar prefers a large single tent located at a node. Therefore, when you cut into a tree to remove an Eastern caterpillar tent, you can do significant, sometimes fatal damage to the tree, depending on what node they happen to be residing. Cutting and burning the afflicted branches is the least environmentally toxic way to deal with them, if your tree is small enough that you can manage this. It also has to be done in the evening after the caterpillars have come home for the night - they're out mostly foraging for food in groups during the daytime. You should also burn the grass at the base of the tree for a good 20 meters diameter.

              Otherwise, pesticides are your only other option, especially if you have a large infestation, which tends to be cyclic. Some years are really bad, others you barely see.

              Your best bet is to not keep fruiting type trees and shrubs anywhere near your horse pastures, paddocks or barn area, and maintain them according to your local agricultural guidelines. If you have a severe infestation, pesticides are your only option because it will be impossible to burn everything, and you may have fire bans in place anyway.

              And since most fruiting trees tend to get rather large, unless you're experienced and equipped with a velocity sprayer, you're better off hiring a professional to spray the tree or trees. Spraying can be done any time of day, but is best done very early in the cool morning so the tree leaves are not burned (by the sun), and should also incorporate the grass around the trees. The residual will kill the caterpillars when they come in contact with the tent. Unfortunately, spraying is not species specific and the spray will kill ALL insects, including bees and beneficial insects.

              Skunks like to eat them, so do blue jays, nuthatches, I think even some frogs (moths), etc. So encouraging a variety of critters to live on your farm can be helpful and the most environmentally protective.

              PS: for what it's worth, accidental ingestion of a dead caterpillar will still cause problems, because it's the barbs on the hair and the bacteria living on the hair that gains an entry through the GI tract.
              Last edited by rodawn; Apr. 8, 2013, 04:20 PM.
              Practice! Patience! Persistence!


              • #27
                I am very sorry for your loss of two babies, OP.

                I remember when a number of foals were lost in Kentucky a few years ago and it was discovered finally, that the deaths came from the tent caterpillar in the cherry trees....it was quite shocking.

                We have them here and have burned them out of our trees but I have never heard of a foal dying from them; perhaps a different caterpillar. They have not been around for several years, seems they come in cycles.
                Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                • #28
                  We have a crabapple right next to my barn and paddock that gets covered in TC bags - they disgust me. I don't breed, but reading this makes me want to cut it down. Are there any other health risks to the horses? I need to convince my husband to cut down the tree that his sister planted 25 years ago. Or I need to learn how to wield a chainsaw myself.


                  • #29
                    Why not just deal with the critters every year? Crabapples are/can be really nice trees
                    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                    • Original Poster

                      Rodawn - thank you for the helpful information.

                      Hundredacres - I read about a horse that was critically ill after ingesting a lot of caterpillars.


                      • #31
                        Just to echo what others here have said... tent caterpillars (and other caterpillars with the spikey hair that is so dangerous) will eat a wide variety of vegetation, and they are difficult to control.

                        My grandfather was a commercial blueberry grower, my mother had a rare plants nursery, I grew up in Seattle, which a gardening mecca. Tent caterpillars (and all the numerous relatives that have similar body hair) can nest is a very wide range of vegetation, from very valuable ornamental and fruit trees - to weeds and scrub vegetation. Tent caterpillars are voracious eaters, there are seven-year cycles of high numbers and low numbers. In the years when the populations are high, they are incredibly destructive to residential and commercial gardeners / growers. My previous husband’s family owned a hardware store in Seattle, carrying the entire line of Ortho and Lilly Miller garden sprays. There was no product that effectively controlled tent caterpillars with any degree of safety for humans, animals, birds and honeybees. Being in the military, we have lived all over the United States and there are tent caterpillars in every state. When we came here years ago, we cut and burned all the wild cherry trees, which cut down on the numbers, but the caterpillars nest in the pecan trees. I do not want sprays on my property if I can possibly avoid them, so we cut and burn any nests, and I do not plant any sort of vegetation that encourages any type of butterfly.

                        I realize that there are varieties of butterflies that are essential to pollinate certain colonies of native plants (I think Alameda ,California has such a colony of native poppies), but we live in an area in NC that have been cultivated for several hundred years and that is not the case for us. I do not wish to attract any butterflies. Over the years I have received gifts of buddleia or asclepias, they go in the compost heap (after the gift giver has gone home).

                        The tent caterpillars added association with the threat to foals and other animals is just one more reason to do what we can to keep numbers as low as possible. I am as environmentally conscious as the next guy, I am not advocating chemicals that are most likely to affect honey bees and amphibians… what I am saying is that I do not encourage any sort of butterfly.
                        Logres Farm on Facebook


                        • #32
                          I wonder if Pepper Spray would kill them in the tent nests?


                          • #33
                            Originally posted by JB View Post
                            Why not just deal with the critters every year? Crabapples are/can be really nice trees
                            This is a really old tree and the TC's have really sucked the life out of it - I would replace it with a healthy tree. We'll be planting a lot of trees this year but we're looking at hardwoods because the ornamentals seem to always need "help" (sickly, weak, etc), or are damaged in wind, etc.


                            • #34
                              We had a couple trees that would get tents on a bad year. For the little ornamental trees, not near paddocks but close to the barn area, we dusted with Sevin powder.

                              One tree was in a field, too big to easily cut down, and we burned the tents within reach. I'll never forget driving the tractor and lifting the bucket up, where the farm manager stood precariously balanced with a long pvc pole and a kerosene soaked rag tied to the end. He lit the rag and burnt all the caterpillar tents up to 20' high; they're quite flammable, but it didn't harm the tree at all. Flaming caterpillars were falling everywhere, sizzling on the tractor hood, falling down my shirt, dropping by the dozens. We sprayed all around the tree and temporarily fenced the area off.

                              No more caterpillars, thanks. Parts of the Ky landscape look bare without the grand old cherry trees, but after a good caterpillar infestation, a chainsaw looks a lot more inviting.
                              “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                              ? Albert Einstein



                              • #35
                                Originally posted by hundredacres View Post
                                We have a crabapple right next to my barn and paddock that gets covered in TC bags - they disgust me. I don't breed, but reading this makes me want to cut it down. Are there any other health risks to the horses? I need to convince my husband to cut down the tree that his sister planted 25 years ago. Or I need to learn how to wield a chainsaw myself.
                                Yes, there can be.

                                "In adult patients, another subset of diseases was diagnosed: pericarditis (inflammation within the sac surrounding the heart), uveitis (inflammation of the eye) and in some cases, colitis (characterized by severe diarrhea), laminitis and failure to gain weight. Some horses also had oral ulcers."

                                from http://m.aaep.org/health_articles_vi...ly=true&id=204

                                Here is also a 2010 review: http://www.journalofanimalscience.or...88/4/1379.full.
                                Last edited by grayarabpony; Apr. 10, 2013, 08:15 AM.