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Yes, they certainly can defoliate small trees - the psychedelic toothbrushes did just that to my Kilmarnoch willow! I was less kind than you, and sent them to toothbrush heaven.
Reply to Frieda: There are several British moth species with wingless (or at least flightless) females, and for some reason most of them seem to come out in the winter. There's the vapourer, of course, the scarce vapourer (which is scarcer), the March moth (appears in March), the winter moth (appears in winter), northern winter moth (lives up north), small brindled beauty, pale brindled beauty, Rannoch brindled beauty (but not the very closely related brindled beauty, which has fully winged females), belted beauty, spring usher, scarce umber, dotted border, mottled umber and early moth. These are not all closely related species, so it seems that flightlessness has evolved several times across the Lepidoptera.
These caterpillars have been stripping the roses in the gardens where I work. I was pleased to see them at first but the roses were skeletal by the end of summer. I don't use sprays so I've been squashing them as soon as I see them this year but would prefer to deter them if possible. Any suggestions?
I have a 4ft high laurel planted last autumn and it is being eaten by something. It sounds like one of the moths I've just been reading about but I can't see anything apart from huge holes and half leaves missing. What can I do? I don't want to destroy moths or butterfly larva. Should I spray and with what??
At the Nurseing home my wife is at they have an internal courtyard to a three storey building, i.e no birds drop in. So a host of Vapourer caterpillars are devouring the trees, bushes etc, any hints to remove these toothbrushes?


Reply to Peter Crawley Hand-picking? Alternatively, spread out sheets of plastic, paper or fabric and bash the bushes to knock caterpillars off. Then squish 'em.
To Phil Bates: I'm sure you can spray with Bacillus thuringiensis, Bt, the one for tomato hook worm.

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