Thursday, 30 August 2012

The death of the conker tree?

We need your help to discover whether blue tits may be the salvation of the UK’s conker trees, which are currently under attack from a leaf-mining moth.
The moth arrived in London just ten years ago, and has since spread across most of England and Wales. The moth caterpillars eat the leaves of the conker tree while hiding inside them, so damaging the leaves and causing them to turn brown and making the tree appear as if autumn has come early.
Since 2010 the Conker Tree Science project, led by Dr Michael Pocock at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and Dr Darren Evans at the University of Hull, has been trying to find out the extent of the damage from the moth and also examine possible solutions to the problem.  The scientific team has involved members of the public in a series of  "missions". Mission 1 asked members of the public to contribute data on the spread of the moth across the UK; Mission 2 examined how many alien moths are being killed by pest controllers; Mission 3, launched today, asks members of the public to count the number of bird attacks on horse-chestnut leaves.

Each bird attack creates distinctive holes in the top surface of the leaf, where the caterpillar of the leaf-mining moth was living. Each attack means one less moth, and so could result in less damage to the horse-chestnut trees.

To take part in this real scientific research visit the Conker Tree Science website.

More details of the new mission ‘Bird Attack’ can be found here.
The Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner moth Cameraria ohridella Credit Dave Kilbey
A blue tit in front of horse-chestnut leaves that are covered with brown patches of damage caused by the caterpillars of the leaf mining moths. Credit: Richard Broughton/CEH

The signs of a bird attack on the leaf mine home of the alien moth that is damaging our horse-chestnut trees. Credit: Dr Michael Pocock/CEH

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