IslingtonTribune

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Hungry caterpillar that’s feasting on our Archway gardens

Green-bodied, bobble-headed insect becomes an unwanted guest in well-pruned bushes of Archway

14 June, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Box tree caterpillar

THE star of a children’s book about the trans­formative power of overeating has become an unwanted guest in gardens throughout the borough.

The dreaded box tree caterpillar has ravaged topiaries and well-pruned bushes in Archway, with a councillor among the victims.

Olga Turetskaya, who lives in Whitehall Park, thought the insect was “cute” at first when she saw one on her lawn.

“Then, my five-year-old noticed more on the bushes,”she said. “I thought the bushes were just going a bit dry prior to that. Now, they looked even worse.”

She added: “All three cute topiary spheres are completely destroyed.”

Countless numbers of her neighbours have witnessed the destruction in their garden thanks to the scuttling creatures.

Damage caused by box tree caterpillar

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the box tree caterpillar is native to East Asia and was first recorded in the UK in 2007. Since then, they have spread like wildfire throughout the country, but are particularly concentrated in London and the South-east.

The green-bodied, bobble-headed creatures feast on box plants before transforming into an ashen-coloured moth.

Ms Turetskaya said she was hoping to salvage what was left of her “poor shrubs”.

Councillor Dave Poyser, a keen gardener with an allotment in Arvon Road, compared the spread of the bug to something you see in a film.

“It’s so sad when box caterpillars attack bushes you have loved and nurtured,” he said. “It’s really quick – almost like a sci-fi movie where the alien quickly takes over a spaceship.”

He initially thought he had forgotten to water his bushes and that’s why they had withered and died. “I had to dig up the remains of two matching bushes which I had painstakingly made circular,” he said.

The RHS recommends picking off the caterpillars by hand from bushes and using pheromone traps to get rid of them. It advises that insecticide is used for “extensive infestations”.

Gardeners who encounter the caterpillar are asked to fill out a RHS survey at apps.rhs.org.uk/surveys/submitrecord.asp?type=9

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