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)

Lifecycle of an Urban Tree

Urban lifecycle of a tree

We don’t just want you to log tree locations and species, we want you to sign up as a steward for your favourite local tree, to monitor its urban lifecycle and to help water it.

The fields you fill in to log your favourite tree are still being developed so please let us know if you have any suggestions! One of these will be to report the lifecycle stage of your tree. This urban lifecycle has been specifically designed to capture when each tree is vulnerable and to highlight when action needs to be taken by residents or the appropriate authorities. This urban lifecycle is represented above. Each stage is associated with an appropriate Twitter hashtag.

Tree damaged (#TreeInTrouble)

Our ultimate aim is for residents to log a tree through a web app (in development) and record the relevant lifecycle stage for that tree. Residents can then tweet us (@TreeLogga) to let us know if the lifecycle stage of that tree changes. They would also include a recent photo of the tree. We can then update the tree map and notify the appropriate authorities.

Tree recently removed (#Dudewheresmytree?)

You will be given the option to sign up as a steward when you first register a tree. If you select yes, you will receive notifications about your tree and you will be asked to take on some responsibility for the care of that tree and be able to update the information about your tree directly. We hope that tree stewarding will make it easier for residents to get more involved in their urban environment. Tree stewarding should also prevent one resident of a road having to care for all the trees on that road and allow you to work out who else is invested in your favourite tree!

Please let us know if you have any thoughts on our tree urban lifecycle.