Country Life Today: Box caterpillars knock slugs off top spot in the RHS’s list of pests — but is hope at hand?

This morning we report hope in the fight against box caterpillars, take a look at what really happens when wolves return to an area, discover the 'Shropshire Robin Hood' and meet what must be the nation's tamest badger.

Country Life Today is our new daily digest of countryside, nature and environment news — it’ll be here at countrylife.co.uk every morning at 7.30am. Wwe hope you enjoy it, and if you have any questions, comments or suggestions please email toby.keel@ti-media.com.


Boxing clever: The battle against Britain’s most destructive caterpillar

Box caterpillars only arrived on these shores in the last decade or so, but they’ve already spread to such an extent that owners of box hedges everywhere are terrified at what is happening. ‘It it catastrophic,’ says Chris Poole, chair of the European Boxwood and Topiary Association. ‘I’m pretty depressed.’

The RHS’s entomologist Dr Stephanie Bird says that box tree moth caterpillars are set to top of the list of pest problems submitted by their members this year, overtaking slugs and snails — yet Dr Bird admits there’s little that they can suggest. Sprays can work, but very few formulas are effective and applying them correctly is difficult — our former gardens editor Kathryn Bradley-Hole explains the process in this article.

In an excellent report in The Times, the paper’s science correspondent Tom Whipple explains more: ‘In its native China the caterpillar is kept in check by a hornet. Without it, there is nothing to stop the spread.’

Yet there is hope. Rosie Fyles, head gardener at the National Trust’s Ham House, which sits on the Thames between Richmond and Kingston. Ms Fyles has seen several birds beginning to feast on the offending caterpillars.

‘To see a jackdaw with a caterpillar in its mouth is just wonderful,’ she says. There’s not a gardener in the country who wouldn’t agree.

Read The Times’s story (subscription required) or get our tips on how to get rid of box moth caterpillars (Country Life)


Wolves and the law of unintended consequences

A wolf (Canis lupus) in a forest, Austria, Europe

The idea of ‘re-wilding’ large swathes of the country very often includes the notion of re-introducing wolves. But perhaps the experience in Germany, where wolves have returned in the last couple of decades following a century-long absence, should give pause for thought.

In the past year 1,600 farm animals have been killed by the country’s 75 wolf packs, 30 wolf couples and three lone wolves. 20 years ago that figure was zero; Angela Merkel’s cabinet is now stepping in to ease restrictions on farmers’ rights to shoot the creatures.

Read the full story (Reuters)


The perils of trying to please some of the people, some of the time

The beach at St Ninians Isle, Shetland — absolutely worth a spot in anyone’s top 10 places to visit. Credit: Alamy

Shetland’s recent inclusion in Lonely Planet’s latest list of the top 10 places to visit in Europe is fully justified. I visited once for a couple of days a decade ago and can recall its striking, windswept hills and clifftops full of puffins as if I’d only just returned.

But what should have been cause for celebration for Shetland turned into a prompt for one resident, Allen Fraser, to write to The Herald about the plans to generate wind energy on the islands. ‘Will they [the visitors] still love our “naked glens flanked by steep hills” when they are filled by vast converter station buildings and lined with pylons and power lines?’ Strong stuff.

Read the full letter (The Herald)


Britain’s tamest badger?

Let’s put aside the debates for a moment and just enjoy this footage of a family of badgers who’ve become so tame that they’re literally eating from the hand of a lady in Stockport. Remember kids, DON’T try this at home…

Read the full story (Yahoo) 


An iron age fort discovered at the cave where Shropshire’s Robin Hood once lived

Kynaston's Cave

Kynaston’s cave at Nesscliffe, Shropshire. Photo: Alamy

Shropshire Council’s archaeologists are working with Historic England and Oxford University’s Archaeology Department to uncover the secrets of Nesscliffe Hill, where recent tree clearing has revealed evidence of a 3,000-year-old settlement. The iron age houses are at the foot of the cliffs which include Kynaston’s Cave, the hideout of a medieval outlaw called Wild Humphrey Kynaston — the ‘Robin Hood’ of Shropshire in the late 15th century.

Read the full story (Shropshire Star)


And finally… quote of the day

‘Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.’

John Ruskin’s advice on not getting too worked up about Bank Holiday weather forecasts.


How to get rid of box moth caterpillars

The box moth, Cydalima perspectalis, and its caterpillars quickly destroy box plants. Here's how to combat these pests.