What's happening to our conker trees?


You are welcome to browse this site, but for the new project website, please go to our new website at www.brc.ac.uk/conkertreescience. It contains updated information and while there you can discover how to take part in the project.

Our conker trees are under attack by 'alien' invaders! Have you noticed whitish patches on the leaves of horse chestnut trees?  By the middle of summer, the whitish patches die and turn brown.  Sometimes whole trees turn brown, and it looks like autumn has come early.

The damage is caused by a tiny 'alien' species of leaf-mining moth, which is invading the UK.  For biologists, an 'alien' is a species not naturally found in an area or habitat.  The moth’s caterpillars eat the leaves from the inside.  Infected trees are weakened, and produce smaller conkers.

Luckily, there is help at hand. Some of the leaf-mining moths are killed by birds that prey upon the caterpillars. Others are killed by natural pest controllers, in the form of tiny insects.  These insects lay their eggs inside the caterpillars of the leaf-mining moths, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae slowly eat the caterpillars, eventually killing them.

Since 2010 we have been inviting people to take part in real science to discover more about conker tree health by taking part in our missions. This summer the project is changing and the missions will be run differently. Come back to find out more inthe next couple of weeks.

The Conker Tree Science project is real science: the frst scientific results of the Conker Tree Science project were published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Download and read the article here. It was a finalist in the Engage competition 2014.

Read the latest news on the Conker Tree Science blog.

Mission: alien moth survey - from mid June

  • Help to find out how far the invading moth has spread and the damage it is causing, by submitting records from your area.
  • Find out what to look for.

Mission: pest controllers - in early and then late July

  • Help to find out how far the invading moth has spread and the damage it is causing, by submitting records from your area.
  • Help to discover how many alien moths are being killed by pest controllers, by collecting leaves and recording which insects hatch out from them.
  • This mission is for everyone who can find an affected horse chestnut tree.

Mission: bird attack - any time from mid July

  • Help to discover how birds are responding to the alien moths. Are they attacking the caterpillars?
  • This mission is for everyone who can find an affected horse chestnut tree.

Register

  • To receive the results of the research and to take part in the missions.

 



Damaged leaf, showing whitish leaf mines 
(photo: Michael Pocock)


Michael Pocock, one of the scientists studying the moths, explains his research

Adult invasive moth (photo: Rich Andrews)
A tiny alien moth that got away from the pest controllers
(photo: Rich Andrews)


Collect leaves like these to find out more about the alien moth and the pest controllers
(photo: Rich Andrews)