Lackey moth

The large orange, white and blue striped brown caterpillars of this moth feed in groups and can consume large areas of foliage on a wide range of deciduous trees. The damage usually not serious and the caterpillars can be tolerated.

Lackey moth ( Malacosoma Neustria ) on apple

Lackey moth (Malacosoma Neustria) on apple

Quick facts

Common name: Lackey moth
Scientific name: Malacosoma neustria
Plants affected: A wide range of deciduous trees and shrubs
Main symptoms: Defoliation, webbing  and orange, white and blue striped brown caterpillars
Most active: April to July

What is lackey moth?

Lackey moth adults are mid-brown in colour and have a wingspan of approximately 30mm. They lay eggs in bands of 100-250 that encircle the stems of  a wide range of deciduous trees and shrubs. 

The hairy orange, white and blue striped brown caterpillars are up to 50mm long. They feed gregariously under webbing and can cause a significant amount of defoliation on their deciduous tree hosts.


The egg bands of this moth are often noticed on deciduous tree hosts in late summer. These hatch in April and the caterpillars feed gregariously under silk webbing and can be present until July when they pupate in leaf litter. The silk webbing and defoliation can be obvious at this time.

The adults emerge from July to September and soon lay eggs.


Defoliation is most severe on small trees, however it should not affect the long term health or vigour of host plants. If the eggs or caterpillars are spotted early on small trees they can be destroyed or removed to a larger tree. On larger trees whilst some parts of the plant may be defoliated this will have no effect on the long term health of the host. Therefore as the caterpillars and associated moths can be considered an important part of garden wildlife they can be tolerated.

Gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Find out what to do this month with our gardeners' calendar

Advice from the RHS

Did you find the advice you needed?

RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.

Join the RHS now

Get involved

We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.