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Webber Moth

This is an odd one. A message came in follwed by an email with three photographs [the first 3 – see below – the rest followed shortly after] of what I was told was the tent caterpillar. Which is correct-ish. But not, because the the [eastern] tent caterpillar moth Malacosoma americanum is from [eastern] North America.

That said we weren’t far off the mark. What we have [because I know Donal Conaty lives in Ireland – because his phone number starts with 087 😀 ], is the webber moth. This comes from varying caterpillars one of which is the Malacosoma neustria. Not that far apart 😯 In short what we have are two Donegans – one is simply my long lost brother. Does that make sense….? [the webber moths also include the euproctis chrysorrhoea/ dichomeris marginella/ Yponomeuta sp.]

So these moths [the caterpillars or ugly butterflies of that is…] can affect any tree or shrub, although they have a particular likening for fruit trees, willow, cotoneaster and crataegus to name a few. What they do is very simple to see from Donals images, they cover the entire area of planting with a web.

The problem for any plant affected by a caterpillar is that the leaves are eaten… Loss in leaf means a reduction in photosynthesis and therefore a loss in production or – more important for any plant is it chances of reproduction. In fruit trees in particular and moreso of importance to me and you – it simply means less fruit. And of course it looks ghastly.

The control is quite simple. Remove the web. Remove the caterpillar. Some say careful pruning but I have seen infestations – like a scene from Wuthering Heights – in my time and a garden rake would be more appropriate in some scenes, to start with. My theory for ‘problems’ such as white fly and caterpillars is always wishy washy liquid and a sponge and in this case by hand first. I may go select pruning if its necessary afterwards. In Donals case I know there are over 100 trees affected and spraying with a pyrethrum based biological control may be the choice.

If you are asking for a name of a product – I haven’t a clue what trade names garden centres have them marketed under and they change regularly enough – just bring them this post and tell them I said call me if they [he says jokingly] need any more information 😉

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what is eating my plant…

not what... but who?

not what... but who?

I was out near The Curragh recently with really nice clients having a coffee… on the way out the door… I spotted Dolly having a go at the newest vegetarian options menu 😆

Humour aside, last year of course my cabbage plants had an absolute savaging by the insect world. Not being the biggest chemical fan in the world that I am… I inspected and it was pretty easy to see why the ‘law of diminishing returns’ had taken an entirely new meaning. Without getting into the entire lengthy discussion of insects and their habits…. for the moment I shall narrow amage of leave down to two types.

The first is by insects… [pauses] pests of plants – whose  mouth eating parts will only alow them to eat in between the veins of the plants leaves… the second type is bird damage who will eat through any part of the leaf including the vein.

operophtera brumata

operophtera brumata

In this case it is plain to see the Winter Moth Caterpillar [operophtera brumata] having an absolute feast.

To control these guys the answers are [excluding chemical warefare] pretty pre-historic. Assuming you do wish to end their life, it is by hand that is constantly recommended by almost all books… ie. they are to be removed by hand. The only other method it seems is to cover the planted area with a horticultural fleece to prevent them getting to the plant.

Whatever you do, whatever you choose to grow – remember not to get stressed and enjoy 🙂