Kew trees at risk from caterpillar invasion

Caterpillars creating havoc at Kew.

One of Britain’s finest vistas risks being destroyed after millions of exotic caterpillars were discovered at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Staff at Kew report that the Ectoedemia heringella is “running riot” in the UK because of warmer weather caused by climate change and is set to cause long-term damage to some of the finest avenues of holm oak trees in Britain. It could also ruin a classic view of Syon House from Kew’s Palm House. Kew plant health officer Sara Redstone said: “It has come in on imported material and is able to survive in this particular area of London because we have such a mild climate now on account of -our changing climate. “We have this concern with most of our trees: once weakened by stress through drought and pollution they become increasingly susceptible to disease.” Kew head of public programmes and curatorial support John Lonsdale said: “The holm oaks are vitally important to the garden. They frame lots of vistas. We think it is three species of micro moth. It could be pretty devastating and become a major pest.” Kew curator Nigel Taylor said: “It first appeared two years ago but now we’re really worried. The holm oak leaves went brown in the late winter and at first we thought it was because of the dry winter but on examination all the inside of the leaf was eaten out by the miner. “It is another example of a pest that has arrived in the UK in the past few years and is now running riot. It’s going to be a long-term problem because there are not yet any bugs here to eat it.” The pest has also been found in Hampshire and Cambridgeshire, said British Leafminers group representative Rob Edmunds.

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