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The Brown Tail Moth

24 Jun

While most of us welcome the summer months, the arrival of a new pest could make you think twice about spending lots time in your garden. The brown tail moth are often found along the coast of south eastern England living in vast colonies. They are known to build webs that can house several hundred caterpillars. Not only do brown tail moth caterpillars cause devastation among your plants but if you are particularly unlucky, they can cause irritation to your skin and potentially leave quite a nasty rash.

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Brown tail moth caterpillars emerge during late spring/early summer, eating the buds and leaves from nearby bushes and trees. Although the caterpillars prefer hawthorn or blackberry bushes, they will eat practically any type of tree or bush. Heavily infested trees are weakened by the loss of leaves, meaning that the likelihood for fruit that year is dramatically decreased. This is particularly irritating for gardeners as it means all their hard work goes to waste. Not only does it cause a problem to your vegetation but it also releases hairs into the air which can cause skin irritation and can affect some people quite severely.

How do I spot them?

Brown tail moth caterpillars are roughly 3-4cm long and they have a distinctive spotted pattern of red and orange dots against its dark brown body. They carry spiked and barbed hairs, so if you come into contact with them you might find you develop a rash. This can be a particular problem for anyone who suffers with asthma as it is possible that these hairs could be inhaled, and if precautions aren’t taken, could cause breathing difficulties.

What should I do if I have an infestation?

The best way to check if you have an infestation of brown tail moth caterpillars is to check to see whether any of your trees or bushes have lost a significant amount of leaves. The caterpillars tend to live in groups or “tents” which are nests they create between small branches. These clumps of cobweb like material will release irritant hairs when disturbed. It is important to take protective measures when carrying out any treatment. Always wear thick clothing, rubber gloves and welly boots so that you cover all bare skin where possible to prevent coming into contact with the caterpillars. If you are spraying insecticide follow the instructions carefully and take note of any recommended safety measures. If you are looking for a much simpler option that will save you time and money then call our skilled team at Abate. With over 55 years combined experience in solving a multitude of pest problems across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire we are always on hand to solve your pest problems.

If you have a problem with moths and would like further information, please call us for free on 0800 980 9609 or call 01953 603390.  Alternatively you can purchase a treatment to deal with your moth problem through our online shop http://www.abateltd.co.uk/product.asp?page_id=33&prodCat=1

An English Country Garden

26 Jun

How many insects come and go
In a English country garden?
We’ll tell you now of some that I know
Those we miss you’ll surely pardon
Fireflies, moths, gnats and bees
Spiders climbing in the trees
Butterflies drift in the gentle breeze
There are snake, ants that sting
And other creepy things
In an English country garden.

We’ll tell you now…. there are some nasty things lurking in your garden.

Black fly and Greenfly

Black flies and Greenflies are sap-feeding insects, about 1-7mm long, who infest plants, especially on the shoot tips, flower buds and the underside of younger leaves. Aphid damage can result in stunted growth with curled or distorted leaves. Some aphids can transmit plant virus diseases when they move from one plant to another. Whitefly look similar to aphids but these small moths tend to fly when disturbed.
Aphids have many natural enemies, including ladybirds, hoverfly larvae, lacewing larvae and several parasitic wasps. Some of these are available for biological control on aphids in glasshouses.

Carrot fly

The carrot fly is a pest of gardens and farms, and mainly affects the crop of carrots, but can also attack parsnips, parsley, celeriac and celery. It is a member of the family Psilidae.

There are also similar flies which affect brassicas and onions. This causes rusty brown scars in the roots of carrots, making them unpalatable, and prone to secondary rot?
Slender creamy yellow maggots up to 9mm long can be found in tunnels, when the roots are cut through. The maggots are the larvae of the carrot fly.

Slugs & Snails

Slugs and snail target a wide range of vegetables; this will often damage seedlings and soft growths. Slugs are active throughout the year, unlike snails, which remain dormant during autumn and winter. Reproduction occurs mainly in autumn and spring, when clusters of round, yellowish-white eggs can be found under logs, stones and pots.
Slugs are so numerous in gardens that some damage is to be expected.

Potato slug damage

Holes in potato tubers and other root vegetables are caused by several pests but the worst of these is the slug. They make round holes in the skin, but much more extensive cavities inside the tubers.

Weevil

Vine weevil larvae are plump, white, legless grubs up to 10mm long with pale brown heads.
They feed on roots and also bore into tubers and succulent stem bases. Firstly causing wilting, this is then followed by the death of the plant. In a vegetable garden they are more than likely to attack plants such as: strawberries or plants growing in pots.
The adult beetles feed only on the foliage so causing less damage.

Caterpillars
Tend to leave holes of different sizes on the outer leaves of your plants. They tend to target common brassicases such as cabbages and radishes.

There are some main candidates’ for this:
· Large cabbage white butterfly (Pieris brassicae) yellow and black caterpillars.
· Small cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae ) velvety green caterpillars with a pale yellow stripe.
· Cabbage moth (Mamestra brassicae – large caterpillars with colouring ranging from green to brown.

Even the ‘Tomato’ doesn’t escape from pests.

Tomatoes are very proned to attack by variety of insect pests from the time plants first emerge in the seed bed until harvest.
Aphids, flea beetles, leafminers, and spider mites threaten young plant-bed tomatoes. In the field, flea beetles, aphids, leafminers, stink bugs, and fruitworms cause minimal damage to the foliage. However, severe damage may result either from their feeding on the fruit or by spreading certain diseases.

Tomatoes in greenhouses have many of the same pests as field tomatoes. Tiny pests such as aphids, whiteflies, leafminers, and spider mites are more likely to infest greenhouse crops than beetles, grubs, or caterpillars. Occasionally moths enter through holes in screens or fans and lay eggs in the greenhouse. Even in screened greenhouses, armyworms, fruitworms, and loopers may be brought into the greenhouses on plants.

OTHER TOMATO PESTS

Pests that mine leaves or bore into fruits and/or buds

Tomato fruitworm – Early instars: cream colored or yellowish-green with few markings; later instars: green, reddish, or brown with pale stripes and scattered black spots; moderately hairy; up to 44 mm long; 3 pairs of legs, 5 pairs of prolegs; holes are chewed in fruits and buds

Tobacco budworm – This caterpillar is similar to the tomato fruitworm except mature worms are somewhat smaller and slightly more slender than tomato fruitworms; in addition, the microscopic spines on the skin of tobacco budworms are more slender, longer, and occur closer to the setae (hairs)

Tomato pinworm – Young yellowish-gray larva only a few millimeters long, making blotch mines in leaves; older yellow, green, or gray, purple-spotted larva up to 8 mm long, folding leaves and webbing them together, or boring into stems, buds, and fruit; fruits with pinholes and discolored blotches

Vegetable leafminer – Colorless to bright yellow maggot, up to 3 mm long, with pointed head; makes serpentine mines in leaves; each mine slightly enlarged at one end

Greenfly

Greenfly

Black Fly

Black Fly

Carrot Fly

Carrot Fly

Snail

Snail

Spider Mite

Weevil

Weevil

Caterpillar

Caterpillar

        

Firethorn Leaf Miner

Firethorn Leaf Miner

Slug

Slug

Ghostly Invasion

17 Jun

Invasion of the Ermine Moth Caterpillar

Ghostly images have formed around the ‘Bird Cherry Trees’ in Jesus Green Park, Cambridge. Is this a alien or supernatural occurrence?

NO: this is down to a creature that only measures less than 1” (2.5cm) in length. We are talking about the Ermine Moth Caterpillar. This has stripped the barks of the Bird Cherry Tree, and then leaving a ghostly white silk webbing structure.

Caterpillars in a Cambridge Park 3

[Picture from – BBC News Cambridge]

These native caterpillars have taken a liking to the avenue of bird cherry tree in this park.

Guy Belcher, nature conservation officer at the city council, said: “They strip the trees and it does look ghostly and very dramatic.

“However, the trees grow back and are fine. It’s a wonder of nature.”

He said it was likely there were hundreds of thousands of the pale, creamy-yellow caterpillars, each measuring just under 1in (2.5cm) in length.

 ‘Micro-moths’

Mr. Belcher continued by saying: “They are host-specific, and only like the bird cherry tree. The ones on Jesus Green have obviously proved favorable to them”.

“This year is obviously good for them, for whatever reason, and there’s a big infestation.”

The silk webs surrounding the trunks and branches were the “combined effort of many, many caterpillars”, he said.

“They form a protective web over the tree on which they’re feeding to try and protect themselves from birds and parasitic wasps.

“The caterpillars are actually a fantastic food source for other creatures in the park.”

Mr. Belcher said past infestations had been monitored and the trees were not harmed.

“It’s not damaging the tree, so we just let nature take its course,” he added.

He said the creatures were nearing the end of the caterpillar stage and would soon pupate into a “tiny micro-moth” – white with black spots – hence the name ermine moth.

[Sourced from News Cambridge]

Cambridge News:

An infestation of caterpillars has engulfed trees on Cambridge’s Jesus Green, covering them in a silvery web.

Commuters and residents have been taking pictures of the mysterious gossamer covering.

Tree experts have identified bird-cherry ermine moth caterpillars but have never seen such an extreme form of infestation before.

Student Debbie Cross, of Corona Road, West Chesterton,  has taken pictures of the webs which have intrigued her since she first saw them last week.

The 35-year-old said: “I think I was probably one of the first people to see this. They came in quickly overnight.

“From walking home the evening before and walking past next morning at 5am the trees were covered in what looked like cotton wool.

“It was quite alarming when I saw the trees. I thought it was spiders with webs.”

Some residents raised concern about the damage the caterpillars are doing to the trees lining a path near the public toilets.

Researcher Charlotte Tulinius, of Searle Street, Arbury, said: “I think it would be great if there was some biological warfare, like a green way of doing it.

“It would be too difficult to spray a whole park full of trees. It would be great if they could get beetles in to stop them or something.

“It would be sad if the trees were stripped but it is nature.”

Andrew Halstead, principal entomologist for the Royal Horticultural Society,  said the caterpillars may be a small ermine moth.

He said: “The feeding areas where the caterpillars eat are covered in silk webbing where they also live. You are seeing the full extent of the damage now as they feed; the next stage is they pupate into adult moths in July or August.

“The impact on the plant is quite a setback if it has been stripped but it will survive and re-grow.”

He said the moths are not harmful to humans.

Nature conservation officer Guy Belcher, of Cambridge City Council, assessed the infestation after being contacted by the News.

He said: “They are bird-cherry ermine moths which spin a silken web in trees and live in little colonies.  I have never seen anything like this before.”

CITtree

[Picture from – Cambridge News)

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The White Ermine Moth [Spilosoma Lubricipede] [Maarten Jacobs]