Tag Archives: environment

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)

6563_Maarten_Jacobs_-_White_Ermine_-_77__decline_over_35_years

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

Deer cull

7 Mar

Following a study from the University of East Anglia, it has been recommended that 50-60% of the UK deer population be culled. The study found that deer numbers are at their highest ever since the last Ice Age across the 6 different species found in the UK. Large numbers of road traffic accidents are caused every year by deer, and they cause significant damage to crops.

It has been suggested that the cull be managed on a case-by-case basis, and that rather than the carcasses being incinerated they be sold to butchers and game dealers. In light of the recent horse meat scandal, and another of today’s news items stating that too much processed meat can lead to an early death, the introduction of a lean meat into the food chain can surely only be a good thing.

Badger culling and Brian May

28 Aug

Brian May of Queen

Well, an unholy row is brewing between Brian May of Queen and the NFU.  Why is this?  It’s that old chestnut, badger culling to help prevention of bovine TB that I have been blogging about for some time now.  The pilot sites have been approved, a legal objection has been over ruled so it looks as if a culling pilot will commence.

Back to the row – Brian May wrote an article in the Mail on Sunday which was around voting Conservative (which he did) and the approval of badger culling.  Mr May intimated that he would not vote for David Cameron in the future as he has allowed the badger culling to go ahead and that this is a “particularly nasty kind of Conservatism”.  He also said that anyone that disagreed with the culling was branded as a ‘nutter’ by the NFU and Countryside Alliance.

The NFU has responded that it is wrong to politicize the debate rather than treating it as an animal welfare issue particularly as Mr May linked the culling to blood sports – hare coursing and hunting etc…

Well, the jury is out on whether the pilot culls will work and then if they will be extended, but one thing I am certain of is that we haven’t heard the last from Brian May yet.

Where do wasps go?

25 Jul

 

WASPS

 

Although it seems the rain has been relentless, the July heat is fighting back with surprisingly high temperatures in the last few weeks. And so, despite the treacherous rainfall, the humble wasp continues to work. Unfortunately the position of their nests can often cause problems. Untouched and undisturbed, wasps remain harmless. But when the position of their nest collides with our daily routine, whether it be in the attic or the shed, stables or barns, the outcome can be, let’s say, confrontational.

 

So it would help if we could recognise what a wasp’s nest looks like and, perhaps more importantly, what to do when one crosses our path. Firstly, this ‘eternal feud’ is not helped by the fact that wasps like to live near us, in our roofs, in our walls… So the danger of being stung can be just around the corner…expect the unexpected!

 

In hot weather, when the nest is fully established, the nest will be easy to recognise as there will be a constant stream of wasps in and out of the entrance. Often with common wasps an structural nest is not visible; a hole in the wall will do…

If they are becoming a nuisance, just give us a call and we will be able to give you some advice and come out sort out any issues.

Aside

Are they Wasps or Bees?

29 May

Pest Management isn’t just about preventing and removing rats and pigeons, it’s so much more including helping move those all important bees to a safe place.

This time of year we are usually already in the swing of gardening, BBQs and general summer mode. However the recent weather up to about a week or so ago has hindered us and the insect world, so spare a thought for them as they are working twice as hard to play catch up and help keep the planet spinning.

Bees are swarming now the warm spell is here but don’t be afraid of them as they are not interested in us. Queens will land to rest which can be almost anywhere but usually south to south west facing. Be proactive! know and find out who your local beekeepers are and have their phone number to hand. They would usually be more than happy to come and take the nest away if they can get to the queen. We need bees to help us and so we will only treat them as an absolute last resort and only if it is a threat to public health.

Please remember Bees swarm and wasps don’t as quite a few people get caught out thinking they have wasps. Wasp nests are imminent as the weather has dramatically changed, although it is usually a few more weeks yet before we start getting lots of calls for them.

So, can you tell the difference

Wasps

Clement the Cuckoo and his trip to Cameroon

26 Mar

I was browsing through various stories this morning and this one amused me – yes, I am easily amused.  Apparently, Clement the Cuckoo is missing.  So what I hear and who is Clement the CuckooImage?

Clement was one of 5 cuckoos that were tagged in 2011 in Norfolk by the British Trust for Ornithology and Clement seemed to have been flying around Cameroon very happily when he dropped off the radar.The other 4 cuckoos have generally appeared at a later date when they have lost their way, but Clement is feared dead; RIP Clement.

The reason behind tagging cuckoos was to trace their migratory habits as they are in decline in the UK.  Clement was the first cuckoo in history to take a western migration route from Europe to Africa via Spain rather than the normal route via Italy.  He then made his way from Senegal to The Congo where he joined his four friends in the rainforest.

Sadly, cuckoos are not the only bird that is in decline, others include the nightingale, yellow wagtail and turtle dove, but there is an urgency with the cuckoo as their numbers are declining rapidly.

Have you heard a cuckoo in recent years? I’m not sure that I have.

Badger culling – Part four

11 Mar

This old chestnut has raised its head again. The Labour Party applied through the Freedom of Information Act to obtain advice that was given to the government by the group Natural England.

Natural England says that badger culling in the form that it’s going to take in the two pilots, could make the situation worse.

Previously, culling was done in a scientific manner -RBCT-Randomized Badger Culling Trial.  Large numbers of badgers were culled virtually simultaneously and this was sustained over a four-year period.  The way that the culling will be done in the new pilots may only disturb the badgers so that they move into other areas thus spreading disease and more cattle will be affected with TB.

Natural England concludes that even if the cull areas are expanded, it is unlikely that the existence of badgers will be in danger, but, they may eventually disappear from some areas.

 

 

Thank you to BBC.co.uk