The distinctive caterpillars of this moth feed on a wide range of shrubs and trees but they are rarely present in sufficient numbers to cause significant problems.
Scientific name Orgyia antiqua
Plants affected Birch (Betula), hazel (Corylus), lime (Tilia) and many other broadleaved trees and shrubs including Cotoneaster and Pyracantha
Main symptoms Hairy caterpillars, grey-black with yellow tufts and red spots (30-40mm long)
Most active Spring to summer
What is vapourer moth?
It is the caterpillars that are particularly eye-catching and it is this stage that is most often noticed in gardens. The caterpillars are predominantly grey-black with small red spots running in rows down both sides of the body; the most easily recognisable features are the four yellow tufts of hair-like setae found towards the head end.
The caterpillars are present on plants from late April to August and when fully grown will pupate within a silken cocoon on or nearby their host plant. The adult moths emerge August to September.
The presence of the caterpillars of this moth rarely cause significant damage in gardens and it can usually be tolerated. Caterpillars and associated moths are important as a food source for other garden wildlife and so should be preserved where possible.
Check susceptible plants frequently from spring onwards so action can be taken before damage has occurred.
- Where possible tolerate populations of caterpillars, as butterflies and moths are an important part of the garden ecosystem
- Encourage predators and other natural enemies in the garden such as birds, hedgehogs and ground beetles
- Check plants regularly from late April for the presence of larvae and remove by hand where practical. When handling the caterpillars gloves can be worn as a precaution, although the hairs are visually striking they do not usually cause irritation.
- Caterpillars can be removed to larger host plants; on larger trees and shrubs whilst some parts of the plant may be defoliated this will have no effect on the long term health of the host plant and so can be tolerated
- If the egg-covered cocoons, on which this species overwinters, are spotted these could be removed to another host plant elsewhere in the garden
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