The number of Brown Tail Moths and their caterpillars have increased over recent years. The caterpillar is an uncontrollable eater of vegetation and can cause serious damage to trees and shrubs. The caterpillars are also covered in small barbed hairs which can irritate the skin, in some cases severely. Some people may even suffer a type of asthmatic reaction. If you come across these insects you should avoid contact. Minor skin irritations can probably be treated with branded products. For more serious or persistent reactions you should seek advice of a pharmacist or GP.
The caterpillar is a blackish grey colour with tufts of ginger brown hairs and two orange spots near the tail. The moth has greyish white wings with a brown tail. In winter months the caterpillars hibernate in silky greyish ‘tents’ usually found at the tips of branches.
The caterpillars emerge from their ‘tents’ to forage for food around May to June as the weather warms. They may return to their tents in the evening or during bad weather. They emerge again in September to October and their feeding may cause the leaves at the top of trees and bushes to turn brown. In winter they stay in their tents and these become very visible as the leaves drop.
Infestations can be DIY treated or a private pest control contractor can be used. If DIY treating, precautions should be taken including protective clothing. Chemical products may be purchased from hardware stores and DIY stores and any instructions should be carefully followed.