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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

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As the weather gets warmer, look out for moth damage

14 Apr

While most of us welcome the warmer spring days, the rise in temperatures brings unwelcome visitors to our homes and businesses – the moth.

As the days get warmer, we pack away our winter woollies and our wardrobes become the focus of attack by these harmless looking insects. At Abate we regularly see an increase in the number of call outs we receive to deal with moth problems at this time of year.

Moths can get into properties via infested items such as carpets, rugs, second-hand furniture and clothing.  They may also migrate from birds’ nests in the roof space where they can feed on feathers.

Carpet beetle pest control

The Common and Case-Bearing Clothes Moth are the two main species likely to be found infesting domestic dwellings in the UK.  Tapestry Moth are occasionally encountered – usually in cooler, older buildings with a higher humidity level.  But it’s not the moths that are responsible for causing the damage, but the larvae.

It can be very difficult to pinpoint the source of an infestation due to their elusive nature. Moths prefer warm, dark conditions such as in drawers, cupboards and under furniture. Anything made from natural textiles is at risk. Clothes Moth have been found breeding on the hammer felts in pianos!

The female Clothes Moth lays 40-50 eggs over 2-3 weeks. These then hatch in 4-10 days. By the time you see the adult moths flying around it may be too late to stop an infestation.

Moths produce irregular holes in garments while the Case-bearing Clothes Moth produces a more regular hole pattern.

Control methods

Areas that are not regularly accessed by the vacuum cleaner are the most likely places to harbour moth larvae.

Drawers and cupboards should be checked and cleaned. Also check the underside of furniture as larvae sometimes pupate on these surfaces. Furs and stuffed animals are also vulnerable to attack.  Deep cleaning should be carried out in infested rooms, paying particular attention to wall/floor junctions, carpet edges and soft furnishings.  Any infested clothing should be washed on as hot a temperature as possible to kill eggs and larvae.  Alternatively, any small items not suitable for washing / dry cleaning can be placed in an air-tight bag and stored in a freezer for 3 days to kill all life stages.

Any infested areas should be sprayed with insecticide although bear in mind that eggs and pupae are difficult to kill and a repeat treatment may be necessary.  Abate do not recommend the use of moth balls containing paradichlorobenzene and naphthalene as there is evidence to suggest these may be toxic to young children.

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.  You can find all our moth pest control products available to purchase in our online shop at http://www.abateltd.co.uk/product.asp?page_id=33&prodCat=1

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]