top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon

Lavender crops destroyed overnight by caterpillars in south of France

Moths were blown across the Mediterranean by a Sirocco desert wind - farmers lose up to 80% of crop

Some farmers will replace lavender with with cereals or sunflowers next year Pic: Barat Roland / Shutterstock

Lavender farmers in the south of France could lose up to 40% of this year’s crop after caterpillars ravaged flowering fields across the region.

The caterpillars came from eggs laid by moths blown across the Mediterranean by a Sirocco desert wind in June, and turned some fields into brown twigs within a couple of days of hatching. 

They ate the lavender at night, meaning several farmers were unaware of the damage before it was too late.

‘It was incredibly quick’

Alain Aubanel, president of the Comité Interprofessionnel des Huiles Essentielles Françaises, said: “It was incredibly quick and some farmers were not able to react and harvest.

“Some of the worst-affected areas are up in the mountains and in the worst cases farmers lost 80% of their crop.  

“Other areas, on the plains, escaped entirely. It is too early for exact figures, but overall it looks as though 40% of the expected crop will not be harvested, which is an enormous loss.”

Read more: ‘Never seen such damage’: Mildew hits vines in French wine region

Cold winter will kill off remaining moths

Mr Aubanel said that in the hot, dry mountains of the south it was likely lavender fields will be in bloom again next year, but there might be fewer in the lowland plains, with cereals or sunflowers grown in their place.

He did not expect widespread pesticide spraying as a result of the infestation, as a cold winter would kill any remaining moths.

Next year, he expects more farmers will use organic farming traps, in which scents designed to attract male moths lure them to their deaths before they have the chance to breed.

The moths are thought to belong to the Noctuidae family.

Related articles

French lavender overproduction puts iconic crop in danger

Most herbes de Provence sold in shops are not authentically French

Where does the South of France start? Tourism offices share thoughts

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Income Tax in France 2023 (for 2022 income)*
Featured Help Guide
- Primarily aimed at Britons, covers pensions, rent, ISAs, shares, savings and interest - but also contains significant general information pertinent to readers of other nationalities - Overview of online declarations + step-by-step guide to the French printed forms - Includes updates given automatically after this year's site opened
Get news, views and information from France