7th June 2021 Pictured on the A661 towards Spofforth, Ermine moths make a web of protection while they eat the hedge from within. Picture Gerard Binks

Ten pictures show amazing web created by ermine moth caterpillars on roadside hedge near Harrogate

The caterpillars of ermine moths have been hard at work creating this silky hedge on the roadside near Harrogate.
The ‘amazing natural spectacle’ was spotted on the A661 road between Harrogate and Spofforth. It has been spun by hundreds - maybe even tens of thousands - of caterpillars as they prepare to pupate into a moth. 
Dr Callum Macgregor, publicity officer at Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire, is a naturalist who studies butterfly and moth ecology. 
He said: “This is the feeding web of the caterpillars of an ermine moth. As far as I can tell, the plant appears to be Hawthorn, therefore they are most likely to be Orchard Ermine (Yponomeuta padella). The caterpillars of this, and a couple of closely-related species, feed in very large groups, and as they move around the plant eating its leaves, they each produce a little trail of silk. Collectively this quickly creates the large silken web shown in the photos, which offers the caterpillars a layer of protection against birds. The caterpillars will feed for a few weeks and then pupate, after which the web will gradually break down and disappear. By late summer it will be gone and the plant will be able to make a full recovery.
“Many people feel negatively towards moths because of an association with holes in clothes and carpets, but only two species are serious pests of natural fibres in the UK, so we shouldn’t tar all moths with the same brush. Moths are interesting in their own right, because we have many more species of moths than butterflies in the UK, and many of them can turn up in the most unexpected of places.”
Dr Macgregor issued some advice for anyone who spots similar webbing.
He said: “Firstly, don’t panic! If left alone, the moths are not going to harm you, your clothes, or the plant they are inhabiting, so there is no reason to harm them in return. Secondly, don’t disturb the webbing. This is because, although the ermine moths in these photos are totally harmless, some web-forming species have urticating hairs

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 5:50 pm
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