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May 31, 2015 11:45 AM

State officials on the look-out for destructive forest tent caterpillars


Fuzzy little caterpillars can enchant young children but entomologists in New Hampshire are on the look-out for a particularly destructive kind of caterpillar called forest tent caterpillars, according to the Union Leader.

Both eastern tent caterpillars and forest tent caterpillars hatch from larvae of moths that weave webs in trees to protect their larvae. The baby caterpillars then crawl out and eat the buds and leaves. In the case of forest tent caterpillars, the resulting defoliation can be extensive and make the host trees more vulnerable to disease.

"You can still drive through Sunapee today and see areas of dead oak trees that were defoliated 10 years ago," said Kyle Lombard, forest health program coordinator for the state’s Division of Forests and Lands.

In 2005, defoliation by forest tent caterpillars increased from 10,000 acres to 70,000 acres in Sullivan County and parts of Grafton, Merrimack, Cheshire and Hillsborough counties, according to Lombard.

"The forest tent caterpillars have a series of what look like white keyholes on their backs. If you are seeing those, we're interested in hearing from you. We'd like to track them," Lombard said. Eastern tent caterpillars, in contrast, have a long white stripe.

Anyone spotting a forest tent caterpillar should call the state Division of Forests and Lands Forestry Health Section at 464-3016.


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