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.