'Spooky' bushes full of caterpillars spotted near Suffolk roads

Experts say the phenomenon is due to an explosion in the population of Spindle ermine moths

Experts say the phenomenon is due to an explosion in the population of Spindle ermine moths - Credit: MATT REASON

Silky caterpillar webs are shrouding hedges across Suffolk - making striking cobweb-like patterns that are catching drivers’ eyes at the roadside.

Experts say the phenomenon is due to an explosion in the population of Spindle ermine moths (Yponomeuta cagnagella), which are fairly common in Suffolk.

Eggs are laid in batches on Spindle bushes, and when they hatch, the larvae spin the webs to protect themselves from predators.

Neil Sherman, the Suffolk County Moth Recorder, said: “As they eat a section of food plant, they then spin more silk as they move to another area. 

“When there are large numbers like there are this year, whole bushes can be stripped and the webs can spread across man-made structures like road signs etc as the larvae move to new feeding grounds.”

Feeding only continues for a few weeks, Mr Sherman added, until the moths are fully fed.

They then spin up cocoons in the silk and later hatch as the white with black dotted adult moths.

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Mr Sherman added: “This moth is a native to the UK so isn't a pest species and the bushes will soon recover their growth once the larvae stop feeding. 

“I've seen the webs from the car at a few sites in the west of the county as well as in the east, so it is a county-wide phenomena.”

He said people who spot the bushes, which can look quite spooky particularly at night, do not need to do anything about them.

“The bushes will soon recover once the caterpillars stop feeding,” he added.

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