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Caterpillar plague eats through trees and gardens

Reporter: Lucy Kenderdine
Date online: 30 May 2014

THOUSANDS of caterpillars have after invaded homes and gardens in Shaw, leaving residents bewildered.

The creepy creatures have taken over a tree on Assheton Road, High Crompton, and have begun to spread to bushes, cars and even wheelie bins nearby.

Grandfather John Greene (74), who lives on the road with his wife, said: “The tree is dead now — the caterpillars have eaten it and they have made a mess.

“It is covered in webs and insects as well but now the caterpillars are starting to come into the gardens and even our homes. My car is covered in caterpillars and I’m concerned about the damage they may cause. They’ve been finding any gaps and coming in to our homes.

“It happened about four years ago; the council came to help. Now they are back. Inside the house we’ve been killing them as quickly as we can, but something needs to be done soon.”

A council spokesman confirmed they had received calls abuot the infestation. The trees affected are bird cherry trees, frequently infested by the ermine moth.

Though tree growth may be slowed by leaf loss, in most cases they will fully recover and can produce new leaves by the end of the summer. The caterpillars will become moths and leave the area within the next few days, but anyone with concerns can call Matthew Moss at Oldham Council: 0161-770 2043.

The small Ermine Moth, also known as the Yponomeuta evonymella, is harmless. Favourable conditions bring the caterpillars out of their nest in search of food. The caterpillars — white or grey with black spots, become small moths after a few days.

A fully grown caterpillar can be up to 25mm long. While in their (current) larva stage, the caterpillar will eat practically any vegetation. They create a silk blanket for protection.

Epidemics are sporadic and seasonal one-offs: the moths tend to eat themselves out of a home, forcing them to move on. Control is not usually necessary. Insecticides are not recommended as they can do more harm than good.


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