Graham Porter’s gardening: Weathering the strange pests in our gardens

HOW many more strange natural wonders are we going to see?

HOW many more strange natural wonders are we going to see?

After that incredible picture from John and Jackie Morris’s garden in Golcar in May, you might begin to wonder what other strange natural phenomenon could happen in this area.

Their cotoneaster horizontalis was attacked by hundreds of tiny caterpillars of the infamous hawthorn Webber moth, scythropia crataegella and looked as if it had been covered in a layer of fleece.

These one-off population explosions happen all round the world, with the best examples being the mouse plagues in Australia and the locust plagues in North Africa.

The best thing about them is that usually they do not occur again on the same plant in the same garden, although I have seen one or two smaller infestation on cotoneasters elsewhere in Huddersfield since John and Jackie contacted the Examiner.

In my own garden I have discovered a strange pest that is rolling up the edges of leaves on a small patch of my hawthorn hedge.

After a small amount of internet searching using various search word variations, I discovered that it is a microscopic mite called phyllocoptes goniothorax that causes the edges of the newly emerging leaves to roll inwards.

It stunts the new growth and so I will be cutting out those pieces of the hedge to stop the mite from spreading.

Mr and Mrs Dickinson from Holmfirth have seen strange blisters starting to appear on the leaves of some dwarf evergreen rhododendrons in their garden.

Although this appears to be very destructive and is certainly unsightly, it is not very damaging to the plant.

The blisters of the azalea gall do get larger as the summer progresses and become covered in a white powdery spore layer, which is the point at which the fungus spreads its spores for another year.

It is essential to remove the infected leaves early in the summer before this white layer appears and the waste should not be composted.

Finally for this month, it is worth mentioning the biblical outbreak of caterpillars in Shipley in May.

This outbreak of what was probably the small ermine moth, Yponomeuta spp, is in the same category as John and Jackie’s hawthorn Webber moth and its explosion into hundreds of thousands of caterpillars is unusual but not rare.

The damage caused to a number of trees in the park in Shipley is not permanent and, if you were to visit the same park in August you might wonder what all the fuss was about.

It has nothing to do with last winter’s weather because the eggs were laid in September 2010.

The caterpillars hatched and remained on the trees all through the winter before being stimulated to wake up and eat by the warm, dry weather in April.

We may not see another similar outbreak for another 10 years or more but watch this space.

If you have seen any unusual plants, pests or diseases in your garden why not give the Examiner a call on 01484 437712.

If you have any questions or queries that you want help with or gardening related subjects that you would like to discuss, why not write to me at Graham’s Gardening Questions, Features Office, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Pennine Business Park, Longbow Close, Bradley Road, Huddersfield

HD2 1GQ.

 
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