Tent caterpillar populations may shrink

June 9, 2008 4:51:01 AM PDT
Northeastern Pennsylvania residents weary of seeing caterpillars in their yards and homes can take heart - they may be about to disappear for a while.

State Bureau of Forestry officials say they believe the eastern tent and forest tent caterpillar populations in the region are on the verge of a collapse that would vastly reduce their numbers next year.

The region is seeing its third major outbreak of tent caterpillars in as many years.

Jackson Gearhart, the agency's service forester for Lackawanna and Wayne counties, says he'll know more in a few weeks, but it looks like the bugs are heading for a fall.

Jackson says disease can lead to a population collapse, and so can an increase in parasites and predation. Weather is also a factor, and Jackson says the cool, damp May has especially affected the forest tent variety.