28 July 2011
Stephen Fry has given his support for the Conker Tree Science: Leaf Watch smartphone app by posting a comment on his Twitter channel
Conker fans from across the country are being called upon to help save the beloved trees from a perilous moth which is threatening their beauty, and Stephen's call to action to his millions of followers can only help in this endeavour.
Horse chestnut trees, whose solid conker seeds are responsible to hours of playground fun, are under siege from an alien moth which arrived in London in 2002.
Since then it has spread at a rate of 40 to 60 km per year and now covers half of the country, including much of south-central England, East Anglia, the Midlands and most recently Yorkshire and Cornwall.
Experts at the Universities of Bristol and Hull are now asking for the public's help in monitoring this spread through a combination of new technology and old-fashioned science.
A special mobile phone app has been devised to allow people to upload a photo of any horse chestnut leaves they come across, either with or without the indication of alien moths, which will pin-point their location and help to build up a picture of which areas are suffering from the infection.
Participants are also asked to collect a leaf from an infected tree and put it into a plastic bag before documenting the insects which emerge later in the month. This is to gauge how many are natural pest controllers, in the form of tiny parasitic wasps, that had killed the developing moths.
Further details about the project, and the development of the app can be found on the project blog.