What is brown tail moth?
Brown tail moth adults are white with conspicuous brown hairs on the end of their abdomens. They have a wingspan of approximately 40mm.
The adults are active in July and August and lay batches of 150-250 eggs covered with brown hairs on suitable hosts. These are mainly in the Rosaceae family and include hawthorn, blackthorn, plum, cherry, rose and blackberry.
The caterpillars hatch after about three weeks and begin grazing the foliage and producing webbing. Little damage occurs in late summer as the young caterpillars soon spin dense silk nests (hibernacula) in which they overwinter. These shelters are often in exposed places such as at shoot tips and so are easily seen in the winter, especially as they invariably retain some dead leaves long after the others have fallen.
The caterpillars begin feeding again in April and may cause extensive webbing and defoliation. They are up to 30mm long, blackish with a white band along the sides. The body is covered with brownish hairs and at the rear end of the body there are two raised reddish tubercles. The hairs readily break off and can cause an intense irritation and rash on the skin. In some areas this moth is abundant and sometimes considered a public health problem, although it usually has little impact on the growth of trees and shrubs. Pupation takes place inside silk cocoons on the host plant during June and July.
This moth is found mostly in Southern England and Wales and in some coastal regions further north.