Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Give us your Oak Caterpillars!!!

Researchers at the University of Georgia are initiating a regional-level study on oak caterpillar outbreaks in the southeastern U.S.  Our project objectives are to better understand the ecology and distribution of caterpillars feeding on oak trees in early spring, and to provide guidance on management of caterpillars. 
For the purpose of this project, we are requesting all folks who have seen caterpillars in large numbers on oak trees on their properties to send us samples.  Specific instructions for collection are as follows:
  1. Collect as many caterpillars from oak trees as possible.  Caterpillars are nocturnal, and can be collected using tweezers directly from the tree.  Bands of cloth can be placed on the tree trunk to stop the caterpillars from climbing the trees and to collect many insects at the same time. 
  2. We prefer >10 caterpillars per tree, but we will take up to 250.  Place caterpillars in a small plastic container or a bag, and freeze them.  Similarly, collect 4-5 leaves from each oak tree, and freeze them separately in a plastic bag.  Collect from as many trees as possible from your property. 
  3. Number caterpillar and oak leaf bags from each tree individually.  So, plastic bags labeled Tree 1 will have caterpillars and leaves collected from that tree, bags labeled Tree 2 will have caterpillars and leaves collected from that tree, etc.
  4. Put all samples together in a small box, and include information about location and date of collection.  Location information should include county and if possible full address so that we can estimate latitude and longitude.  This information will be kept strictly confidential.
  5. You can drop the caterpillars and oak leaves at the local extension office, and send us an email about it.  Or, you can ship the frozen caterpillars and oak leaves (1-day shipping) to the address as follows:
Evelyn Carr
Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources
180 Green Street
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602

If you are unable to do either of these things, then please contact us to pick up samples.  The samples need to be either alive or frozen so that we could extract DNA from them to determine caterpillar species.  Any assistance with learning more about our native caterpillars will be greatly appreciated!  Thank you for your participation in the project.