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Latest from blog

July/August 2021

July/August 2021

26 Jul 2021

Well, Peter Cuss was right.  The oak trees and hazel coppic...



 

June 2021

June 2021

18 Jun 2021

It has to be said that this time last year I was proudly reporting that we had recorded 109 different species of moth one night in Miram’s Copse on Rushall Farm. That, of course, excluded the ones eating the carpets at home and those devouring our fine crop of leeks in the garden. Well, this year our daily walks through the woods have been festooned with caterpillars of all colours and sizes hanging precariously from the tops of the tallest oak trees. It was fascinating watching the way they moved, those mistakenly marooned on metal gates, or the sheer numbers drowned in puddles after a night of wind and rain. And then we did look hard at the hazel coppice and realised that all the leaves had been eaten and there was nothing left.  And it wasn’t that ‘the ash was out before the oak so we were in for a soak’, but that buds, flowers and leaves had all been scoffed by the winter moth larvae. Our normally very beautiful 100 acres of woodland had been decimated by these ravenous beasties.  Worse still has been the daily parade of a great mob of crows foraging on the woodland floor angrily cawing in their sinister, eerie way, making their collective name ‘a murder of crows’ seem quite appropriate.

I am in despair about our woodlands and other areas where the damage is significant.  My moth expert Peter Cuss from Bradfield College is far more dispassionate, saying that “the main reason was that many blue tit nests failed this season.  They normally time the rearing of their young to coincide with the glut of caterpillars but the cold spring delayed this and the blue tits suffered accordingly. A single pair of tits will get through 11,000 caterpillars to feed their brood.” Peter goes on to say,

” I’m sure both trees and blue tits will recover and the balance will be restored, nature is very resilient.” There was me basking in the beauty of this late spring and the fantastic displays of wild flowers all out together for such a long time.  Little did I know that it is all Eric Carle’s fault.  He wrote ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ in 1967.  It was translated into many languages and sold 50 million copies worldwide.  And as he died in late May these little creatures proved quite simply what a mighty force they are, perhaps in his memory?

John Bishop