Jackdaws appear to be the first natural predator of the awkward tree moths of gardeners who rid their hedges and eat the wood
- Box tree moths are kept under control by parasitic wasps in their native China
- But it was thought that they had no natural predators in the UK
- National Trust gardeners have now discovered that they are eaten by chewing
A fight against a devastating garden pest is helped by an unexpected ally – the jackdaw.
Gardens in the UK have been hosting caterpillar caterpillars since they were first noticed in 2008, and the creatures have left a trail of destruction.
They kill box hedges by eating the leaves and then attacking the wood, causing the plant to die.
In their native China, the caterpillars are controlled by a kind of parasitic wasp, but until now they had no known predator in the UK.
But a stately home in southwest London has discovered that chewing eats the larvae and helps the bushes come back to life.
Chews have been observed to be the first natural predator of box moths in the UK, where they strip the hedges from their leaves and destroy the wood (photo: a jackdaw in Ham House in Richmond-upon-Thames that eats one of the larvae)
Rosie Fyles, head gardener at the National Trust's Ham House, said: & We first noticed in May that chewing caterpillars plucked from the hedges, which was fantastic to see, but I thought it was a one-off event used to be.
Box Box hedging is an iconic part of the garden in Ham, and with so much of the threat of damage from the caterpillar was huge.
& # 39; So we were very happy when the birds returned for the next life cycle in August.
& # 39; We had wondered if the caterpillars would be unpleasant or even toxic to native birds – but the jackdaws have clearly developed a taste for it.
& # 39; These are early days, but it is really an encouraging sign that there may be a home-grown solution. & # 39;
The green-yellow caterpillars severely damaged a garden in the spring at Ham House, near Richmond-upon-Thames.
But thanks to the jackdaws, the hedge starts to rejuvenate as the year progresses.
The gardeners are now even working out how to attract more small crows to the area to keep the caterpillars at bay.
Mrs. Fyles added: “We have found that the jackdaws are most effective on the hedges that have been partially stripped of leaves by the caterpillars and therefore contain larger holes – making the insects easier to spot.
The caterpillars are controlled by parasitic wasps in their native China, but have destroyed gardens in the UK after they were first found in 2008
Gardeners of National Trust at Ham House in Richmond-upon-Thames (photo) say they are now thinking of ways to lure more chews into the gardens
"We are now looking at ways to prune the hedges in a more open style, which allows for increased airflow and gives the birds easier access to the caterpillars."
Chris Poole, president of the European Boxwood and Topiary Society, said: “The jackdaws in Ham certainly contribute to the removal of caterpillars in hedges and it is a good sign that British birds develop a preference for them.
& # 39; In the coming years, we need to consider all control methods, including disposal, to make our most important profession thrive.
& # 39; Let's hope that local predators such as the Ham chews play an important role. & # 39;
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