Creepy Crawlies and Poorly Trees (Part 2) – For Kids

Creepy crawlies may look cute, but they can really hurt our local trees and we need to watch out for them. Trees can also catch diseases that make them poorly.

Starry Sky (Asian Longhorn) Beetle

This beetle is black with white spots. It likes to eat lots of different types of trees. It was seen in England 6 years ago but all infected trees were cut down and it hasn’t been seen since. Keep a look out for it!

If this beetle is living in the trees near you, you will see small (1 cm wide) holes in the trunk of the tree and sandy piles a the bottom of the tree (beetle poo). You might also see areas where the bark has been scratched off.

Trees around the infected tree will need to be cut down, but this will stop the beetles spreading to lots of other trees in the area and across the country. If you think you’ve seen one of these beetles, tell your parents and ask them to report it straight away. Click here for more information on this beetle.

Asian Longhorn, which looks like a starry sky
Starry Sky (Asian Longhorn) Beetle

Bird Cherry Ermine

Moth of bird cherry ermine
Bird Cherry Ermine

These moths are white with black spots. They do well in warm Summers and are common this year. They have been seen in England and Scotland.  The caterpillars of these moths only eat bird cherry trees. The caterpillars make the trees look like ghosts, as they spin a white web over the whole tree and eat all of the tree’s leaves.

The caterpillars do not kill the tree and the leaves grow back when they have turned into moths. These caterpillars are also not dangerous to you or your pets, and should not be confused with the horse chestnut leaf miner caterpillars.

Check out The Herald and the Scottish Wildlife Trust websites for more information on the bird cherry ermine.

Emerald Ash Borer

These little beetles haven’t been seen in the UK yet, but have killed a lot of ash trees in other countries. They like to make holes in the bark of ash trees and tunnel into the tree. Once they’ve found a tree they like, the tree will die 2–3 years after the beetles arrive.

Green Ash Borer Beetle
Emerald Ash Borer Beetle

Trees with yellowing or sparse leaves might be infected with these beetles. Also, woodpeckers are often be seen on infected trees, as they like to eat these beetles.

If you think you’ve seen one of these beetles, tell your parents and ask them to report it straight away. More information on these beetles can be found on the Woodland Trust website.

Red Band Needle Blight

This tree blight (or disease) is caused by a fungus (like a mushroom). Red band needle blight targets pines and conifer trees. Once trees become infected, they lose more and more needles every year and eventually these trees will die.

Infected pine needles often go brown
Pine Needles Browning After Infection

This tree disease is found across the UK and affects more pine trees than conifers. Be careful if you think you see signs of infected trees. The fungus can be spread to new areas by the wind but also on your clothing or shoes! You don’t have to notify anyone of the diseased trees, although it would would be helpful to stop other trees becoming infected.

More information on this tree disease can be found on the Forestry Commission website.


Creepy Crawlies and Poorly Trees – Educating Kids

Trees are like us and they get poorly too. They don’t get coughs and colds like we do, but they can be infected with diseases and different creepy crawlies. As we’re sure you’re all looking out for ripe conkers, we’ve included things that affect conker (horse chestnut) trees in this first blog post.

Horse Chestnut Canker

A canker is a sore patch on a tree. These sores are caused by a disease found in England and Scotland and that is becoming more common. The tree can look like it is sore or bleeding on the trunk and on the branches. Big trees can die from this disease, but smaller ones are most likely to die. If you see sores or bleeding like in the picture, ask an adult to inform the Forestry Commission. Further images of cankers can be found here.

bleeding on trunk
Bleeding on trunk of horse chestnut

Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner

Moth form of horse chestnut miner
Horse chestnut leaf miner moth

These moths are named because their caterpillars like to ‘mine’ into the leaves of horse chestnut trees. The caterpillars then eat the leaves. These tree pests are found in England and Wales.

Caterpillar of horse chestnut leaf miner
Horse chestnut leaf miner caterpillar

They don’t damage the tree but they make brown lines on the leaves and the leaves then drop off early (at the end of Summer rather than in the Autumn). Most infected trees are being monitored regularly, so you don’t need to report these infections.

Infected leaves
Leaves infected by leaf miner caterpillars

Suggested science activity: Take two leaves from a tree you think is infected. Brush off any insects you can see on the leaves and put them in a sealed plastic bag, keeping some of the air in the bag. Keep them out of bright light and store them for two weeks. If the tree is infected the caterpillars and moths should come out of the leaves.

Do you see any adult moths? Do you see any tiny wasps (these can eat the caterpillars)? Do you notice anything different about the size of the conkers of infected trees compared to uninfected trees?

Oak Processionary Moths

Found in certain spots in England, including London. The hairy caterpillar of this moth hurts oak trees by eating their leaves. The caterpillars like to walk together in a line or group to form a silky nest.

caterpillars of oake processionary moth in a line
Caterpillars of oak processionary moth in a line
Nest formed by the moths
Silky nest formed by oak processionary moths

Beware, they can give you a rash and make you very poorly if you touch them or any of their hairs. They can also make your pets poorly. Keep away from any caterpillars or any nests you find and ask an adult to alert the Forestry Commission.

(Adapted from info from The Woodland Trust, Forestry Commission and the Conker Tree Citizen Science Project)