Preventing damage from winter moth caterpillars

Posted: Thursday 30 October 2014
by Pippa Greenwood

Preventing damage from winter moth caterpillars is on my to-do list. These yellowy-green menaces can do a lot of damage to trees, both edible and ornamental.

Winter moth

Preventing damage from the caterpillars of the winter moth, Operophtera brumata, is on my to-do list at this time of year. These bright yellowy-green menaces can do a lot of damage to many trees, both edible and ornamental, especially apples, cherries, pears, roses, sorbus, hornbeam and oak to name but a few.

Most of the feeding takes place between bud burst and the start of spring, just when the foliage is at its most tender. The caterpillars also attack blossom and even the fruitlets, causing an often sizeable cleft to show on the fruits as they mature, sometimes resulting in significant deformity. Even ornamental plants can be spoiled as the leaves and flowers are damaged and the leaves become bound together by silken threads produced by the caterpillars.

At this time of year it’s easy to get the problem sorted out. Glue bands are a simple and very effective way to control the winter moth. The female moth cannot fly so as they start to emerge from pupae in the soil beneath your tree, they can only climb the tree in order to find a suitable branch to lay their eggs. By fixing a glue band 45-60cm above soil level and keeping it clear of debris (which may act like a ‘bridge’) you can literally stop the female moth in her tracks. It's simple and very effective – and involves no toxic chemicals.

You can even get pre-glued rolls of water-resistant paper so you can cut the length of glue band to suit the girth of your tree. This is a good time of year to do it as you need to catch the caterpillars as they emerge. So watch out, caterpillars – I'm coming to get you...

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john penrose 01/01/2015 at 13:21

after reading your blog I thought I would like to say what I do and that is use petroleum jelly it works just as well and it is cheaper i also use it on cut stems after pruning.