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Richard Walker

The Topiarist's Nightmare

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Last night photoed this rather attractive moth in my local. It's pretty, but it's an invasive and harmful species. 

By chance my brother snapped one of these the day before and sent me the pic and an ID. So I recognised it at once as a box tree moth.

They are native to China, Japan, East Russia, India and neighbouring regions, where there is biological control from, from example, hornets. But in the last few years they have spread, I imagine with human help, to Europe, then Britain, and now to the Cambridgeshire village where I live. And we have no natural controls.

The caterpillars live on box hedges or trees as the insect's name tells us, and they are hugely destructive; they may completely defoliate the bush, leaving just twigs. The moth may lay three sets of eggs in a season and so many people are losing their prize hedges, including many of my fellow villagers.

If you look at these old hedges at Audley End you can see what a huge legacy is under threat.

The RHS article about the moth is here; you might find it interesting reading, and, if you see the moth in your locality, report the sighting to the RHS.

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