Northern Ireland

Kilkeel: Orchard Ermine moth larvae strip hawthorn hedgerows

Millions of Orchard Ermine moth larvae have stripped long sections of the plant along a country road near Kilkeel
Image caption Millions of Orchard Ermine moth larvae have stripped long sections of the plant along a country road near Kilkeel

A mild winter is being blamed for an explosion of a pest that can devastate hawthorn hedgerows.

Millions of Orchard Ermine moth larvae have stripped long sections of the plant along a country road near Kilkeel, County Down.

The foliage has been consumed and the larvae have spun a long web over the bushes.

Local man Stephen Rooney discovered the phenomenon along the Slatemill Road.

Image caption The larvae have spun a long web over the hawthorn bushes

"It's the strangest sight. I've never seen the likes before," he said.

Image caption Moth expert Andrew Crory said the millions of larvae had the capacity to destroy large sections of a roadside ditch

Moth expert Andrew Crory of Ulster Wildlife said the Orchard Ermine moth larvae was a well-known pest of the hawthorn and blackthorn plants which make up much of Northern Ireland's hedgerows.

He said the millions of larvae had the capacity to destroy large sections of a roadside ditch.

Image copyright Franziska Bauer
Image caption The larvae turns into this moth

He blamed the mild winter but said the pest is a long standing problem.

"We've had them as long as we've had hawthorn," he said.

Earlier this week, BBC News NI reported that tens of thousands of larvae had stripped a number of trees almost bare in the Belvoir Estate in Belfast.

Image caption The larvae infestation on a tree in the Belvoir estate

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