AN INVASION of moths which attack horse-chestnuts has reached York and is damaging a picturesque avenue of the trees in the city.

The leaf miner moth lays its eggs on horse-chestnut leaves, producing caterpillars with huge appetites which can quickly leave an entire tree with dead or dying leaves.

The moth was first found in the Wimbledon area of London in 2002, having spread to Britain from the Balkans.

It has spread across the country fast and the threat from the outbreak is now being compared to Dutch elm disease, which all but wiped out Britain’s elms in the 1970s.

The moth is to blame for autumn coming months too early in the grounds of Goddards, a big house off Tadcaster Road, built in the 1920s by Noel Goddard Terry, of the Terry’s chocolate-making dynasty, but now the Yorkshire headquarters of the National Trust.

A row of chestnuts was planted along the avenue from the road to the house by garden designer George Dillistone.

Leaves on the trees started turning brown not long after they appeared in the spring and now experts from the Trust say the trees may eventually have to be felled.

Goddards gardener Alison Green said spraying the trees with insecticide would be impractical because of their size and also health and safety issues.

The trees could also be reinfested from untreated horse chestnuts in nearby properties.