Forest Tent Caterpillars return to R-C

Published 9:54 am Thursday, May 26, 2016

WINDSOR – After observing defoliated trees and hearing local concerns, the North Carolina Forest Service in Bertie County scheduled a reconnaissance flight to look at the bottomlands along the Roanoke and Cashie Rivers.

According to NCFS Bertie County Ranger Mike Hoggard, that flight revealed large areas of defoliated trees along the river bottoms in Bertie, Martin, Halifax and Northampton counties. There were also spots found in Hertford, Gates, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, and Currituck counties.

“Don’t be alarmed, these trees are not dead, but yes, the Forest Tent Caterpillar is back again this year,” said Hoggard.

The Forest Tent Caterpillar is a common defoliator of North American forests. This native insect feeds on a wide variety of hardwood forest, but will move to shrubs and ornamentals when their preferred hosts are eaten.

The larva appear in the spring as one inch long nearly black caterpillars, about the time when leaves begin to grow.

Some years when the population is numerous they can defoliate acres of trees.

Full grown caterpillars are about two inches long and have a row of 10 to 12 keyhole shaped markings down their backs.

Defoliated trees usually rebound, but may have some dead branches and growth loss. Repeatedly attacked trees year after year however, may die.

Hoggard said control measures are not practical for forested land, but homeowners with attacked orchard, ornamental, or shade trees may use a chemical or microbial insecticide.

For more information on control options, contact your local Agricultural Extension or North Carolina Forest Service offices.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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