New blight attacking county trees

SCHOOLBOYS can prepare for an all-conkering autumn, despite some predictions that their favourite game could be scuppered by a new blight.Horse chestnut trees across southern England, including many in Ipswich, have been hit by an infestation of leaf miner moths.

SCHOOLBOYS can prepare for an all-conkering autumn, despite some predictions that their favourite game could be scuppered by a new blight.

Horse chestnut trees across southern England, including many in Ipswich, have been hit by an infestation of leaf miner moths.

Their caterpillars feed on the leaves of the trees, preventing them from converting sunlight into food and forcing them to wither and fall off prematurely.

The moth has arrived in Britain from continental Europe, and some experts fear it has been able to establish itself here because global warming has made our climate warmer.

But despite damage to the leaves, Ipswich tree expert Martin Minta said there was no sign that the number of conkers would be reduced this year.

He said: “There still seem to be the same amount of conkers about - and the trees should not suffer too much damage this year.

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“The fear is, of course, that the infestation will continue into future years and that will weaken the trees over a period of time.

“What we hope is that some natural predators like birds will get a taste for these caterpillars and bring the ecosystem back into balance.”

Most of the horse chestnut trees in Ipswich are thought to have been invested to some degree - although some have less damage than others.

Mr Minta said: “Probably the best known horse chestnuts are those in Norwich Road and they haven't been too badly affected - they certainly have lots of conkers maturing.”

It was not clear how the moth had reached Britain - some experts thought it had reached the country naturally while others thought it might have hitched a ride on freight that arrived in the country from elsewhere in Europe.

But Mr Minta said the recent mild winters and warm summers had contributed to its being able to establish itself in the south of England.

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