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Eastern Tent Caterpillars Are Thriving in Beidler Forest - Which Means the Birds Are, Too

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Beidler Forest Audubon Center’s manager Matt Johnson said this is red-letter year for the larvae of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. They were everywhere, the boardwalk was covered in frass, the polite word for insect poop, they were even falling on us from the trees! Although they covered with seta, hair-like bristles that sometimes cause serious skin irritation, these caterpillars are harmless to touch. Among the one hundred forty birds that spend all of part of their life at Beidler, are the yellow cuckoos. They sit by the nests of these caterpillars and gleefully strip the bristles off, devouring up to one hundred at a time. When startled by loud noises, such as thunder, they make a croaking sound, giving rise to the nickname rain crows. They lay eggs over a relatively long period of time; often depositing them in the nests of other birds.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.