Les’s Patch: How to stop moth from being a pest

Les Foden
Les Foden
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The winter moth, Operophtera Brumata, is a real pest on fruit trees.

Adult females are wingless and appear like a six-legged spider. They climb up the trees from late October to Christmas time, and start to lure males with pheromones.

The males have wings. They mate leaving the females to lay 100 or so eggs in crevices in the bark around buds.

In April the caterpillars hatch and start to feed on the blossom and foliage.

They often spin leaves and petals together loosely with silk before feeding.

Winter moths’ larvae have only two fleshy abdominal or pro legs and move with a characteristic looping action giving them the name of loopers.

These feed until the end of May when they lower themselves to the ground on a silken thread, burrow into the soil and form pupae, emerging as adults in the autumn.

Early infections can strip the tree of blossom leaving no fruit before starting on the foliage.

Complete defoliation can leave the trees looking like they would in November, but in June.

Sometimes the caterpillars attack the fruitlets, leaving fruits with deep scars to the core.

They do attack apples and most fruit trees, as well as some ornamental trees.

Now is the time to place grease bands around the trunks of trees which will prevent the females from climbing up to mate and lay eggs.

These bands need to stay in place until April.

Insecticidal sprays at blossom time or winter tar oil washes can also be used.

Pheromone traps can be purchased which hang in the tree branches and attract the males.

They stick to the traps and are unable to mate.

Lawn drainage may be hard work but well worth it in the end.

Dig down to the sub soil and if it is of an open porous nature there’s no worry about drainage.

On a sandy site you are not likely to be troubled by water logging and the opposite is more likely to be the case, so dig in plenty of old manure or other humus to help retain moisture.

But on a clay sub soil water is very likely to collect during rainy spells, and if it does it will certainly collect more in one place than another, and that one part of the lawn will become sour, the grass will fail and the lawn will be ruined.

Some of the most satisfying of gardening tasks can be taking cuttings, sowing seeds and other propagation methods.

African Violets are easily propagated by leaf cuttings. Using aluminium foil place a cap over a jar of water.

Make a couple of holes in the cap and push the leaf stalks through so that the ends sit in the water and the rest of the leaf is supported above the foil.

It’s best to select from only the very best and healthiest of plants.

I often hear the complaint that new plants raised from cuttings are no better than the old plants and the reason is simply selection.

I have been selecting my best dahlia plants for 50 years and those that have seen the difference cannot believe they are the same varieties as their own plants.

To be honest I finished with a super stock of all the varieties I grew.

When I am giving a talk to gardening clubs, etc, I show slides of the stock I started with and the finished stock, and close up and in colour the difference is remarkable.

Hard wood cuttings of shrubs and trees are generally taken in the autumn.

Wood most suitable for cuttings is that of one year’s growth, but well ripened in the sun, not soft and sappy.

Pieces vary in length according to the kind of plant, but a piece with half a dozen joints is ideal.

The cut is made just below a joint and the bottom leaves removed to allow a clean stem to go in the soil.

From a third to a half should be in the soil which must then be made quite firm.

Spread a two inch layer of sand over the soil before placing any cuttings, and some of the sand will trickle into the holes.