Moths are commonly associated with summer time and in the majority of cases this is true, with many of our British moths being on the wing during the summer months. However, we do have a few species that are on the wing during winter. As the name suggests, The Winter Moth, Operophtera brumata, is one of these species and can be seen throughout most of Britain and Europe during the months of October to February.
Most of us will have seen the male of this species at some point in our lives as it has a largely varying habitat and will often be found sitting outside lit-up windows during winter months. It ranges in colour from pale grey to a sooty brown and is slightly patterned with dots and lines. The female of the species is similarly coloured but cannot fly as its wings are a vestigial trait. Because of this trait, the females are commonly found on tree trunks and branches where they sit to await a mate.The female Winter Moth lays her eggs on a host plant, with deciduous trees and shrubs being the favoured choice.
The Winter Moth caterpillar is green in colour, with a pale line down either side of its body and a darker line down the back. The caterpillars hatch during the spring and begin to feed during the early bud bursts. Because of this behaviour, Winter Moth caterpillars have become a serious pest of many commercially grown fruit trees. They favour apple, pear and plum trees and cause extensive damage as they feed upon the leaves and blossom, causing a reduction in fruit growth or the fruit to develop with defects. They also favour many ornamental garden plants. One successful method of reducing damage to trees is to place a sticky or greasy band around the base of the tree trunk and stake, to prevent the females from being able to climb up the trunk and lay their eggs. This band is usually put in place during November and kept maintained until April, so if your a keen gardener, now is the perfect time to get started on your bands.
— Wildlife Sightings (@wildlife_uk) October 18, 2014
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