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Articles: Brown tail moth

Contributed by localrags on Oct 14, 2003 - 12:12 PM

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<FONT face=Arial color=black size=4>AN IRRITATING LITTLE PROBLEM

<IMG alt="Brown tail moth" hspace=20 src="images/btmoth.jpg" align=left vspace=20 border=1>They might be soft, white and silky, but they can hide an irritating problem.

The silken ‘tents’ found o­n shrubs and trees are home to Brown Tailed Moth caterpillars during autumn and winter. The hairs from the creepy crawly can cause skin irritation and Shepway Council is warning that the tents should not be disturbed.

Andrew Murphy, Shepway Council’s environmental health manager, said: "The caterpillars have long hairs which cause a painful and itchy rash. Even if there is no direct contact with the caterpillar, hairs can break off, making tents dangerous long after the caterpillars have gone.

"The tents are about the size of a tennis ball and look like cotton wool. If anyone spots them, they are asked to ring us for advice. Certainly people should not touch them without wearing gloves and skin protection."

The Council launched an offensive against the moths following a major infestation in 1999. Male moths were enticed into ‘traps’ full of female pheromone that overloaded their sensory system so they could not identify female moths and breed.

"This was very successful and we have not had to repeat the programme. But this does not mean Shepway is free of moths completely and we need the co-operation of local residents during autumn and winter when there are no leaves o­n the trees and caterpillar tents are easier to spot. We can cut out the tents with the caterpillars still inside. We can also use a biological spray containing bacteria that is harmless to humans and the environment but fatal to the Brown Tailed Moth caterpillars," said Mr Murphy.

Further advice is available by calling Environmental Health o­n 01303 853549.