THERE are many pests that can damage or destroy crops but in the summer of 1937 the counties of Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire were ravaged by an unusual plague.

In early June, farmers began noticing a massive increase in the number of caterpillars on their land.

Crops began to show signs of damage and soon, much of central Scotland was decimated.

Distinguished scientists were called in by the farmers but they could not understand why there was such a large contingent of the little creatures.

They said it was the worst pest invasion they had ever seen, and it transpired it was the worst in Scottish history to date.

The little army was advancing at the rate of a mile a day and the only hope of respite would come the following month when they reached the chrysalis stage. Only then would they be harmless.

The worst damage was in Stirlingshire where the reservoir supplying water to the Denny area had to be shut due to the number of dead caterpillars in the water.

The other reservoirs in Stirlingshire, and Clackmannanshire, including Gartmorn Dam, were kept under close surveillance with regular checks to make sure the same was not happening there.

To try and deal with the issue, large tracts of land were burned from as far away as Loch Lomond to the Ochil Hills in order to stem the plague. Trenches were dug and laden with salt, but this did not work particularly effectively.

The disaster had been confined to Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire as the moths had swept over the Ochils from southern Perthshire but soon reports were coming in that caterpillars were damaging crops further south in Ayrshire and Dumfries-shire.

A doctor from the University of Edinburgh said the caterpillars were antler type, so-called because of their distinctive antler shaped marks on their forewings, measuring about one and a half inches long.

He went on to report that millions and millions of them were sweeping across the country, moving down from the hills, and rendering the land bare as they ate the wheat, barley, and other crops.

Around 10,000 sheep were affected as their grasses were destroyed at the root.

The matter reached the House of Commons on Friday, July 2, when the Secretary of State for Scotland Dr Walter Elliot confirmed that artificial methods of control were out of the question.

He went on to state the damage was only temporary and the outbreak was 'past its zenith'.

Once the plague had passed, thousands of acres of pastureland had been destroyed.