We are advising residents to beware of the Brown Tail Moth, which is increasing in numbers across parts of the borough. While at the caterpillar stage of its development, the insect has hairs, which can cause considerable irritation to the skin and, in a small number of cases, trigger severe breathing difficulties. When found in large numbers, the insect can also devastate vegetation in gardens and open spaces.
The brown tail moth caterpillar is found in hedgerows and trees. It is blackish-grey with tufts of ginger-brown hairs and has two orange spots near the tail.
Lifecycle and behaviour
The moths lay about 300 eggs on the leaves of trees and shrubs in late summer. The caterpillars hatch and start to feed on the leaves and in the autumn, to survive the cold winter months, they spin a white 'tent' around themselves. These can easily be seen when the leaves fall from the trees. In the spring, the caterpillars leave their 'tents' and feed again until they are about 3.5cm long. Towards the end of the summer, they moult, pupate and emerge as adult moths.
In contrast to the Brown Tail Moth, the Lackey Moth caterpillars are black in colour when they first appear in April, but soon develop blue, white and orange stripes with an overall covering of reddish/brown hairs. These moths are not a pest.
How to control the moths
The best way to control the moths is to remove the 'tents' in the autumn by cutting off the affected twigs. Residents should make sure they cover their skin by wearing protective clothing such as rubber gloves when removing the 'tents'. After cutting off the affected twigs, the 'tents' should be sealed in a plastic bag and either burnt or placed in the black-lidded wheeled bin. We are also advising residents to disturb the 'tents' as little as possible during the removal process.
What if I get a rash?
If you are unfortunate to get a rash, it will only normally last 2-3 days. During this time it will be very irritable but you should not scratch. Some of the relief can be contained by applying calamine lotion. If the rash persists, see your doctor.
Please note that we do not provide a treatment service for the Brown Tail Moth - this page is for information only.