Reversing Brown-tail Moth Damage

Ever heard of the brown-tail moth?  

Even after decades’ worth of experience in the garden care and maintenance sector, this insect is something that we don’t see very often.  

Recently a client approached us with a highly unusual issue which we diagnosed as this little-known infestation problem.  

We’ve created a quick guide to brown-tail moths, the damage that they cause, and our expert advice for its removal.  

What are brown-tail moths, and how do they damage shrubs?  

Brown-tail moths are a moth species which can be found across the UK, but they most commonly dwell in the South and East of the country. They can be identified by their furry white body and wings, and their characteristic brown tail tip.  

As adults, these moths live in gardens and parks, most commonly in patches of scrub or hedgerow.  

With their furry tuft of head hair (not dissimilar to a certain PM), you may well think they’re quite sweet-looking creatures. However, the issue that they pose is not when they are adults. It is the caterpillars that are the troublemakers.  

In recent years, there has been a dramatic surge in the brown-tail moth population. As a result, there are more and more of their caterpillars about.  

The nests of the caterpillars look like a big, thick white spider’s web. It binds together in a mass of stringy substance, which clings to trees or shrubberies. As you can imagine, the nest is a bit of an eyesore.  

These caterpillars can quickly infest trees and shrubs, including oak and apple trees. They strip the tree’s leaves at a rapid pace and, if left unattended, they can kill an infested tree.  

How do you remove the caterpillar nests?  

Removing the havoc that these caterpillars cause isn’t as easy as it sounds.  

Although your instinct may be to simply pick it up and manually remove it, this is highly inadvisable.  

This is because the caterpillars of the brown-tail moth can provoke nasty skin irritations and allergic reactions.  

The caterpillars are covered in fine, bristly hairs. So, when touched, they can cause significant skin reactions, including a blistering rash. In some cases, touching these caterpillars can even cause asthmatic reactions. 

As a result, any outbreak of brown-tail moth caterpillars needs to be handled with extreme care.  

There are two different ways in which you can treat this nest; a natural and a chemical method.  

The natural method:  

This organic method of removing brown-tail moth caterpillars involves removing them by hand.  

Wear full protective clothing, particularly around your hands and arms.  

Remove the nest by cutting off the branches that it is attached to. Then, either burn the nest on site, or place it in a sealed bin liner, and dispose of it.  

The benefits of this method are that it is completely green, and no pesticides are needed. However, the big disadvantage is that you run the risk of exposing yourself to a reaction, by being in such close proximity to these caterpillars.  

The commercial method:  

For this method, a specialist would be enlisted. They would then remove these pesky caterpillars on your behalf.  

They would do this by using pesticides to treat the infested areas, before chemically removing it. This will restore your grounds back to peak condition, prevent any further damage, and protect your workforce or visitors from allergic reactions.  

Although it is the more costly option of the two, we would always recommend that you enlist the services of a removal specialist. Not only will they ensure a thorough and careful treatment of your grounds, but they also have the equipment and experience to handle these insects without putting themselves at risk.  

If you were to attempt to fix the matter yourself, or leave it untreated, then you need to be aware that you may put yourself and your employee’s health at risk. Risk assessments should be completed, and care taken. 

If you have any further questions about brown-tail moths and their removal, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.  

We would be more than happy to offer you our advice, specific to your particular situation.