Cobwebs with ermine moth caterpillars

Daily Walk in Difficult Times 44

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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.

6 Replies to “Daily Walk in Difficult Times 44”

  1. Hi, Lilian. Yes, lots of kind readers wrote to say that it was Honeywort (Cerinthe purpurea) which is an escapee garden plant that originated in the Mediterranean area. Bee like it because of the nectar and it is also thought to have some medicinal properties. It was the angle of light that made it look so special and catch my eye. I went back to see it again the next day, butthe light was different, and I couldn’t even see it amongst the other plants.

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  2. We see these structures quite often. People use the catch all term “bagworms “. They aren’t dangerous but unsightly. I remember my parents getting agitated if any got in our trees when I was young.

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  3. That’s interesting, Claudia. The other feature is that they destroy all the leaves on the plant – potentially killing it if there are enough caterpillars.

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  4. Yes. Usually what I’ve seen it’s very localized in the tree (I guess because the tree’s owner treats the tree to get rid of them). So mostly just unsightly. And they do seem to come in waves, some years none, some years you see them all over.

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