Common Swift Moth
Common Swift Moth, Common Swift, Common Ghost Moth , Common Ghost
The common swift moth is an insect that can be variable in patterning and colour, so they can be tricky to identify as a problem in the garden. They're crepuscular, showing large periods of activity in the evenings but can be on the wing during the night too. They're readily attracted to light, so you may spot one on the outside of the bedroom window on an autumns night. Although pretty, the caterpillars of this moth can do substantial damage, with heavier infestations sometimes causing premature plant death. The plants most at risk include daisy, peony, chrysanthemum and strawberry. There are a total 5 species of Swift moth in the UK. The family holds a total 500 species!
These caterpillars can sometimes kill plants when there are a lot of them.
Caterpillars are preyed upon heavily by birds and hedgehogs!
This moth is a fairly small insect where a females wingspan will reach roughly 4cm (a male moth will only amount to half of this). The wing patterning can be variable; the main colour can range from ginger brown to grey. The white markings vary in hue. Caterpillars (moth larvae) can be as long as 4.5cm and they are maggot-like, creamy white with brown heads. They're often seen feeding in large groups. Eggs are probably too small to see. Where they are laid is completely random because a female moth will scatter her eggs whilst in flight.
Plants may begin to loose vigour. These caterpillars target the roots of plants, so infestations can go unnoticed until it's too late.
This species of moth is common across Europe.
These moths attempt to scatter eggs near areas with lots of dense vegetation. So if you believe a plant is losing vigour and is within an area with many other plants, it may be worth cultivating the ground beneath the suspected problem and see if any grub-like insects are within the media. You may remove larvae of the pest species as they are found. These may be squashed, fed to the birds or relocated!
Unfortunately, there are currently no chemical treatments available for home gardeners that will give effective control over this pest.