Past missions

From 2010 to 2013, we ran three missions for anyone to take part in, and submit results. We produced a scientific paper to show the results of the first two missions.

The good news is that you can still download the instructions to have a go yourself even though we are not collecting the data. (These are ideal for school classes, but suitable for anyone.)

If you would like to contribute to the current recording project, please submit your record.

Mission: pest controllers

How long? 10 minutes at the beginning of July, 20 minutes in mid July. 
When? Part 1 in early July, part 2 in mid July (just before the end of term).
How? Collect leaves in zip-lock bags, see what has emerged two weeks later. Identify which insects are pest controllers.

How to take part

Download the fully illustrated instructions [pdf]

Download the insect identification guide [pdf]

If you are very keen and have access to a good microscope you could try identifying the species of parasitoid with the parasitoid species identification guide [pdf]


  • Make sure that your leaf is infected with the alien leaf-mining moth otherwise you won't find anything. (Check out the difference between the leaf-miner and the leaf blotch fungus.)
  • Pick the leaves and check for insects on the correct dates otherwise you may get no insects. However, you could also try this mission with leaves picked in the autumn.
  • Identify the insects as accurately as you can. Make sure you don't count empty pupal cases or other insects by referring to the insect identification sheet.

Although in previous years we collected the results from this mission, we are not collecting them any more. However, do feel free to let us know if you took part and how you got on. 

About this mission

  • The purpose of this mission is to understand how likely the alien moths are to be attacked and killed by their natural pest controllers. We expected more wasps to be attacking the moths in places were moths have been present for longer. 
  • These natural pest controllers are parasitic wasps which are vital in controlling numbers of many insects. Don’t worry though, these wasps do not harm people.
  • Records of leaves from which no insects emerged or only adult moths emerged are just as important as records of pest controllers.
  • Studies elsewhere in Europe found only 1 in 10 alien moths were killed by the pest controllers. Is it more or less in Britain? Your data has helped us find this out.

Mission: alien moth survey

How long? A minute. 
When? Anytime from mid June to late autumn.
How? Make observations. Note what is under the tree (mown grass or something else).
Why? Does the amount of leaf damage depend on how long the moth has been present? Is the amount of leaf damage affected by whether the moths would have overwintered under the tree?

Download instructions for the Mission: alien moths

About this mission

  • Anyone in the UK can complete this mission.
  • The alien leaf miner moth has spread in the UK since it was first detected in London in 2002.  Each year the moth spreads further. We want to know how far it has got and how much damage it is doing.
  • Records of trees with no damage (damage score = 0) are just as important as positive records to help us understand how far the moth has got.
  • The alien moth over-winters in leaf litter under the tree and there is evidence that if the leaf litter is removed (e.g. in parks or gardens) then it causes a reduction in the amount of damage to the horse chestnut leaves.
  • You don’t need to pick leaves for this mission, but if you do decide to, please only pick leaves that you can easily reach from the ground.
  • We were collecting data to answer two specific questions:
    • Is the damage greatest where the moth has been longest?
    • Is the damage least when there is no leaf litter under the tree in the winter?

Mission: bird attacks

How long? A few minutes. 
When? From July to mid September (especially after mid August).
How? Count the number of leaf mines that have been attacked by birds.
Why? Do the number of bird attacks vary between trees and between different places on a tree?

Download instructions for the Mission: bird attacks

About the mission

  • The purpose of this mission is to understand how likely it is that the alien leaf-mining moths are to be attacked by birds. This was the first large scale study of bird attacks on these leaf-miners anywhere in Europe!
  • We predict that there will be more bird attacks in places where moths have been present for longest.
  • We also predict that where birds are attacking the leaf-mines, they prefer to attack leaf mines on the most infested trees.
  • Do your records support our predictions?
  • The birds attacking the leaf miners are most probably tits, especially blue tits. They seem to feed mostly on the moth pupae.