Wednesday 25 July 2018

Gypsy Moth Caterpillars Pay a Visit to Tredegar Square

The Tredegar Square Gardens beech hedge showing the clear "caterpillar line"

At the beginning of June when grass was still green and with just a few weeks to go until our Fun Day, we started to receive emails about the beech hedge in the Square being eaten alive.

A friend from Roman Road who walks through the Square noticed the hedge being consumed and saw the "wave" move from one end to the other over the course of a week. It went from green to brown in a week.
A close up of the beech hedge in Tredegar Square Gardens

MEOTRA dispatched a team of reporters and after a double-take realised it was due to hundreds of caterpillars. In fact, you could actually hear them munching away at the leaves like someone scrunching newspaper. Worried they might be "toxic caterpillars" MEOTRA contacted John Archer, Tower Hamlets Biodiversity Officer and we were relieved to hear they were Gypsy Moth caterpillars rather than Oak Processionary moth caterpillars which have been making news with their infestation of London this summer.

Although harmless to people, the Gypsy Moth caterpillar species is regarded as a pest of trees. It was once a common native species in East Anglia, but became extinct there. Since 1995 it has been established in parts of London, whether from natural arrivals from Europe or accidental introductions is uncertain. DEFRA tried unsuccessfully to eradicate it, and it’s now resident in scattered areas of SE England. 

Now, some six weeks later the grass is the colour of straw, whilst the beech hedge is green again, and the  Gypsy Moths seem to have moved on.

The council will monitor the hedge and see whether they should take any action.

The beautiful colouring of the gypsy moth caterpillar seen in close up

Caterpillar alongside an adult thumb (for scale)

Gypsy moth munching on the beech hedge

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