There were cobwebs in the bushes of the hedgerow yesterday. Closer inspection revealed that they were nests of silken threads containing dozens of small larvae voraciously eating the bound leaves. I discovered that they were the caterpillars of one of the Ermine Moths (Yponomeuta spp). They were smooth and cream-coloured with shiny black heads and black spots on the body. They will develop into elegant white moths with black spots – the pattern and colour reminiscent of the winter fur of some members of the stoat family known as ermine. The larvae in the photographs are NOTdangerous like the hairy larvae of some other moths that can cause problems such as skin and eye irritation and allergies.
Apparently, in some years, there can be an explosion of abundance of these kinds of web-forming caterpillars, resulting in extensive lengths of hedgerow, whole bushes, entire fields, and even all the foliage on road roundabouts, being smothered in spooky white blankets of the silken threads.