All White Now

For the past couple of springs, we have been fascinated by the appearance of large webs in the hedgerows around us as the surrounding hedge bursts into leaf.

Then several weeks ago, on an evening walk, we were stopped in our tracks by an eerily white tree, which was particularly striking amid all the fresh green foliage of the surrounding trees and hedges.

Closer inspection revealed that the entire tree was defoliated and wrapped in a tangle of sticky webbing. Along the adjacent walls and railings, a writhing mass of caterpillars streamed away from the tree – presumably in search of more food, having exhausted their original source.

Apparently, both the tree and hedgerows are victims of the bird-cherry ermine moth caterpillar (Yponomeuta evonymella). I presume there must be a bird-cherry tree beneath all that sticky web – although they also feast on hawthorn and blackthorn, hence the holes in the hedgerows. A rather unsettling yet intriguing phenomenon. In theory, the tree should survive this attack, though it is hard to imagine while it is so devastated.

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12 thoughts on “All White Now

  1. OMG, that looks absolutely gross! Please don’t let them come anywhere near my garden. I’ll try to think nice thoughts and imagine the lovely moths that those caterpillars will turn into.

  2. I don’t know if it is the same moth but the only time I have seen this is when I was in Victoria, Vancouver island, Canada in the early 90’s, I was told they can strip a tree but what was most disliked was that they sometimes fall out of the trees on people especially on heads, I was very careful before I walked under any tree there, I had no idea we had something like it in the UK, I too heard that the tree recovers,
    Karin at southern meadows wrote a post about them on one of her trees, Frances

    • Fingers crossed for the poor tree! I wouldn’t have wanted to walk beneath them, I walked very quickly next to them – couldn’t believe how far they streamed along next to the road…

    • Yuck! They were even creepier in reality as they teemed along the walls for many metres, everywhere you looked there was undulating motion *shiver*

    • Quite.
      That many caterpillars would satisfy even the most “peckish” chickens… there were thousand upon thousands streaming along beside the road.

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