'Like a Halloween scene' - huge caterpillar webs engulf hedges

Ermine moth caterpillars spotted between Chedgrave and Thurton

Jonathan Orland spotted this large infestation of ermine moth caterpillars between Chedgrave and Thurton on Monday evening (May 16) - Credit: Jonathan Orland

An unusual spectacle of the natural world has been appearing across Norfolk and Suffolk – and it looks like something out of a horror movie.

Hedgerows and bushes have been covered in web-like blankets metres long which are thought to be the work of a species of moth caterpillars.

Infestations have been seen in south Norfolk and parts of north Suffolk and have been stopping people in their tracks.

Ermine moth caterpillars spotted between Merris and Eye, Suffolk

Diana Lockwood spotted this ermine moth caterpillar web on the roadside between Merris and Eye in north Suffolk - Credit: Diana Lockwood

Diana Lockwood, 61, spotted them while driving along between Mellis and Eye, about six miles from Diss. 

She said: "It looked like a winter or Halloween scene in the middle of May, which was weird.

A close-up of the ermine moth caterpillar's web 

A close-up of the ermine moth caterpillar's web - Credit: Diana Lockwood

"I came back and had a closer look and I could see thousands of tiny caterpillars squirming around on the webbing.

"I hope to head back in a week or so to see how much they've grown."

A close-up of the ermine moth caterpillars, who create large webs to protect themselves from predators

A close-up of the ermine moth caterpillars, who create large webs to protect themselves from predators - Credit: Jonathan Orland

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According Bob Morgan, reserves communications officer for Norfolk Wildlife Trust,  the phenomenon is likely made by a species of micro ermine moth caterpillars.

Mr Morgan said: "The webbing is likely produced by micro ermine moth caterpillars, of which there are 20 species in Norfolk.

"They favour different types of plants and shrubs and you see them in hedgerows often.

"The moths produce these huge, thick webs to protect themselves against parasitic wasps and birds.

"Depending on the species, they will live on different types of plants, such as pine or nettle.

"Some years the populations will bloom and this tends to fluctuate with the population numbers of wasps as well." 

They tend to last from May to June before slowly disappearing over the summer until the adult moths set flight late summer.

Ermine moth caterpillars crawling along fencing in the south Norfolk countryside

Ermine moth caterpillars crawling along fencing in the south Norfolk countryside - Credit: Jonathan Orland

Jonathan Orland, 44, found a web stretching across several metres of hedgerow and fencing between Chedgrave and Thurton in south Norfolk.

He said: "There was at least five metres of bushes, hedges and fencing covered.

"It was difficult to know where to stand as they were just everywhere. It was strange to see.

"You wouldn't want them in your garden."

The moth caterpillar's webbing can be seen across fencing found in the countryside between Chedgrave and Thurton

The moth caterpillar's webbing can be seen across fencing found in the countryside between Chedgrave and Thurton - Credit: Jonathan Orland