THOUSANDS of horse chestnut trees across Wiltshire are at risk of dying because of a disease that is spreading throughout the county.

The tree leaves are being attacked by the leaf miner moth, which burrows into them, turning them brown and blotchy.

The moth, which is not native to Britain, has been slowly spreading from the south east and has has now reached Wiltshire.

Chris Sorensen, the Forestry Commission officer for the 4,500-acre Savernake Forest, near Marlborough, said: “There are quite a few that are affected here at the forest.

“But the problem is limited, thankfully, because the horse chestnut is not generally a forest tree.

“For those who have horse chestnut trees at home though I believe the advice is that you should rake up dead leaves and bin them, that way you at least kill off that year’s offspring.”

It is estimated that there are about 500,000 horse chestnut trees in Britain.

Corsham town councillor Nicholas Keyworth said: “The effects are all too obvious with the tell-tale marks on the leaves of these majestic trees, causing them to turn brown and wither.

“Over time this will seriously weaken the tree by preventing it photosynthesising effectively, so the tree starves to death.”

The branches of weakened trees could then become a danger as they fall.

But there could be some good news ahead as a parasitic wasp, which has become increasingly present in Britain, is the leaf miner’s natural predator and could help to eradicate the problem.

It feeds off the larvae produced on an infested tree.