Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Forest visitors warned of moth threat to Scots pines

HIGHLAND nature lovers have been warned not to remove tree material to help prevent the spread of a giant moth which could destroy Scotland's pine forests.
People visiting woodland in the Kiltarlity area near Inverness have been urged not to take away pine needles, branches or twigs because of the threat to the country's native trees.
Forestry Commission Scotland is trying to stop the spread of a localised population of the pine-tree lappet moth. Its caterpillars can cause large-scale damage to pine plantations. The moths, which can grow to 8cm, were first found in Scotland in the Highlands in 2004 and a breeding population was confirmed in 2009. Since then, strict control measures have been put in place to avoid the spread of the destructive insect.
They originate in continental Europe, Russia and Asia, where they causes large-scale damage to pine plantations, sometimes over thousands of hectares.
Outbreaks last up to eight years in some parts of its range.
Studies suggest that climate change over the coming decades may make Scotland – especially the drier east of the country – a more favourable breeding ground for the moths.
Hugh Clayden, the commission's tree-health policy adviser, said: "The potential threat comes from the caterpillars of this large moth, which feed mainly on pine needles and can completely strip trees of their foliage if outbreak conditions arise.
"Taking any foliage or woody material away from affected forests could potentially help these moths to move to other areas so we are asking members of the public to assist us by leaving such material in the forest as it could harbour either eggs or caterpillars of the pine-tree lappet moth."
The moths can produce up to 250 eggs each and lay them on needles, twigs or bark between late May and the middle of August. The caterpillars – which can also grow to 8cm – feed until the first frost arrives before traveling down the tree trunks to spend winter underground.
They re-emerge in early spring and travel back up the tree to feed again.

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