The forewings are a yellowish-buff to whitish-buff colour. The number and size of the black dots on the wings vary but a distinctive diagonal row of elongated spots running from the forewing tip to trailing edge can distinguish it from the White Ermine. A mostly black form has been bred in captivity but is much rarer in the wild.

The hairy larvae can be seen from July to October which then overwinters as pupae among plant debris.

Size and Family

  • Family – Tiger moths, ermines, footman moths and allies (Arctiidae)
  • Medium Sized
  • Wingspan Range – 34-44mm

Conservation Status

  • UK BAP: Priority species (Research only)
  • Common

Caterpillar Food Plants

A wide range of herbaceous plants, especially Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) and woody species including Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), Hop (Humulus lupulus) and birches.

Habitat

Found in most habitats including gardens, hedgerows, parks and woodland.

Distribution

  • Countries – England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland
  • Common and well distributed throughout England, Wales, the Isle of Man, Scotland and the Channel Islands. Local in mainland Scotland but more frequent near the west coast.

Buff Ermine Moth Caterpillar Stock Photos and Images

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  • A face to face view of a Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum) moth caterpillar in a garden in East Yorkshire
  • Buff Ermine Moth (Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum, Spilarctia lutea), caterpillar on a leaf, Germany
  • Buff ermine, caterpillar, Gelber Fleckleibbär, Gelbe Tigermotte, Raupe, Spilarctia lutea, Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum
  • Buff Ermine Moth (Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum, Spilarctia lutea), caterpillar at a sprout, Germany
  • Buff ermine, Spilarctia luteum
  • Lackey moth, Malacosoma neustria, white ermine, Spilosoma lubricepeda, and rose beetle, Cetonia aurata, on a rose bush, Rosa centifolia. Handcoloured lithograph after an illustration by Moses Harris from ‘The Aurelian; a Natural History of English Moths and Butterflies,’ new edition edited by J. O. Westwood, published by Henry Bohn, London, 1840.
  • Buff Ermine Spilosoma lutea caterpillar Gold hairy caterpillar with long hairs This species overwinters as a pupa Diet is
  • Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum) larva
  • Buff Ermine Moth Larva Spilosoma luteum
  • Buff ermine, caterpillar, Gelber Fleckleibbär, Gelbe Tigermotte, Raupe, Spilarctia lutea, Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum
  • Buff Ermine Moth (Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum, Spilarctia lutea), caterpillar under a leaf, Germany
  • Buff ermine, Spilosoma luteum
  • Buff Ermine Moth (Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum, Spilarctia lutea), caterpillar on an eroded leaf, Germany
  • Buff ermine, caterpillar, Gelber Fleckleibbär, Gelbe Tigermotte, Raupe, Spilarctia lutea, Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum
  • Buff Ermine Moth (Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum, Spilarctia lutea), caterpillar on an eroded leaf, Germany
  • Buff Ermine Moth (Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum, Spilarctia lutea), young caterpillar feeding on a nettle leaf, Germany
  • Buff ermine, caterpillar, Gelber Fleckleibbär, Gelbe Tigermotte, Raupe, Spilarctia lutea, Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum
  • Buff ermine, caterpillar, Gelber Fleckleibbär, Gelbe Tigermotte, Raupe, Spilarctia lutea, Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum
  • Buff Ermine Moth (Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum, Spilarctia lutea), young caterpillar feeding on a nettle leaf, Germany
  • Buff Ermine Moth (Spilosoma lutea, Spilosoma luteum, Spilarctia lutea), caterpillar on leaf, Germany

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Moths are an important part of our biodiversity and have vital roles in the environment, providing an essential source of food for many other species of wildlife and acting as important pollinators of flowers. The vast majority of the 2,500 species found in Britain are harmless and beneficial, but a few have the potential to become nuisance species.

Clothes moths:
There are only two common species of clothes moths which cause problems, the Case-bearing Clothes Moth and the Common Clothes Moth. The caterpillar of the former hides in a portable case as it feeds, while those of the latter feed from within flimsy white silken tubes which sometimes form a mat covering several caterpillars and can be quite noticeable. Both species evolved in bird or animal nests and only eat fibres of animal origin such as wool, fur and feather. They are more likely to attack clothes or carpets which are dirty and in dark, humid, undisturbed places such as under sofas and beds. Regular checking and cleaning of such places will deter them, as will repellents such as cedar balls, and clothes stored for a long time should be put in sealed polythene bags. If clothes are attacked, placing them in a freezer for several days will kill the caterpillars. Large infestations may need advice from a pest control agency.

Ermine moths:
There are several species of ermine moths, which are small, whitish, elongated moths covered in rows of black dots. A few species are occasionally a temporary nuisance as they can defoliate some garden shrubs. However, although this can look alarming, the shrubs do recover and grow new leaves. Ermine moth infestations are noticeable because the caterpillars cover the shrub or hedge in a wispy web, under which they feed. (Note: These ermine moths should not be confused with the much larger and completely harmless White Ermine and Buff Ermine common in many gardens).

Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner:
This is a recently established pest of white-flowered Horse Chestnuts (it does not attack the red-flowered variety). The tiny caterpillars burrow within the leaves and heavy infestations can cause the tree to go prematurely brown. So far it seems there is no long-term harm to the trees, which produce new leaves the following year, although the growth of young trees may be held back.

Brown-tail:
The adult moth is white with a brown tuft of hairs at the end of the abdomen. The caterpillars are blackish with brown hairs and white and red spots (but may be confused with other species). The caterpillars can be a problem when they occur in large numbers as the hairs can cause severe skin irritation and rashes. They spin communal nests of silk, which also contain their irritant hairs. Brown-tail caterpillars are mostly found on bramble, hawthorn and blackthorn in scrub, hedgerows, parks and gardens in southern coastal areas. However, colonies have also become established in the London area and along the south Yorkshire coast. Caterpillars and their nests should be avoided and local authorities can be contacted to deal with infestations.

Oak Processionary:
This is a more serious but much rarer pest than the Brown-tail. It is a continental species which is only occasionally found in Britain. The caterpillar is grey with a single blackish-grey stripe along the back and covered in long white hairs. They can defoliate oak trees, but the hairs are also highly irritant and can become airborne and cause respiratory problems. The caterpillars follow each other in procession and have silk communal nests attached under branches or on tree trunks, which also contain the hairs. Caterpillars and nests should be avoided and expert help is needed to identify and eradicate them.

Box Tree Moth:
The Box Tree Moth was accidentally introduced to the UK, the first report was in 2008 and by 2011 caterpillars were found in private gardens. This species is well established in the London area, it is spreading in distribution and the population appears to be growing. The Box Tree Moth is considered to be a serious pest in parts of Europe on various species of Box. It can disfigure ornamental Box hedgerows and topiary.

At this time of year we often receive reports of ghostly silken webbing covering sections of hedgerows and, on occasions, individual trees. Although it can look rather sinister, don’t be alarmed. The most likely culprit is a harmless caterpillar.

Webs have already been seen in parts of Dorset in the last week or so. These striking and obvious webs hide hundreds and sometimes tens of thousands of caterpillars of a group of moths called the Small Ermine moths. There are eight species in this group, although only the Orchard Ermine Yponomeuta padella, Spindle Ermine Y. cagnagella and Bird-cherry Ermine Y. evonymella tend to produce such extensive webbing, the former mainly on blackthorn and hawthorn, the others on spindle and bird-cherry respectively. The Bird-cherry Ermine tends to have a more northern distribution compared to the other two and occasionally whole trees can be covered by their webs, the leaves stripped bare giving the tree an eerie appearance. Sometimes these webs are so extensive that they can cover nearby objects such as benches, bicycles and gravestones.
Why do these species spin these webs and live together in such large numbers? It’s a successful evolutionary strategy, providing protection from predators through safety in numbers. However, numbers are hard to hide and hence the production of the silken webbing.

These webs and caterpillars are harmless and usually last from May to June. The webs slowly disappear over the summer and typically the hedgerow shrubs/trees recover. The adult moths fly later in summer and all look superficially similar, being white or greyish with many small black dots, hence the ermine name.
Ermine moth webs should not be confused with other web-forming larvae, which can be found around the same time, although these nests tend not to be so extensive and the caterpillars of most are hairy. Nests could belong to the nationally scarce Small Eggar Eriogaster lanestris, whose webs can reach the size of a small football; the declining Lackey Malacosoma neustria, with their striking stripy caterpillars; the Brown-tail Euproctis chrysorrhoea, which is expanding its range; and the introduced Oak Processionary Thaumetopoea processionea. The caterpillars of the latter two have urticating hairs, i.e. these can cause rashes, and because of this we advise that all hairy caterpillars and webs should be avoided and not handled.
Mark Parsons
Head of Moth Conservation

No health risk posed by native spindle ermine moth caterpillars

Community Contributor May 3rd, 2019


Courtesy photo

By Elaine Freeth, USAG Bavaria Environmental Division

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Sightings of web covered shrubs with clusters of yellow and black spotted caterpillars around the garrison and residential areas have raised some voices of concern, but community members don’t have to worry about this particular caterpillar.

These native caterpillars are Spindle Ermine Moth larvae (Yponomeuta cagnagella), or Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte in German. They do not pose a risk to the public, or to the plant they claim as home during their larval and pupal stages.


The habitat and food source of the spindle ermine moth is the European spindle shrub, found along forest edges and hedges. Locally, this plant can be found in places such as the vegetation lining the sidewalk of the Tower Barracks post office and circumference of the Physical Fitness Center track. The plants can be seen covered in the caterpillars’ webs and mostly defoliated, as they eat the leaves and bark in preparation of spinning cocoons.

The life cycle of the spindle ermine moth begins the summer prior when a female moth lays eggs on the branches of the European Spindle shrub. In a few weeks, the larvae hatch, eat briefly, and then hibernate through the winter. In the spring, the plant will begin to grow leaves, bringing out the caterpillars and their webbings.

During their larval and pupal stages, the Spindle Ermine Moth use webs as a protective barriers. As larvae, they eat the leaves. Then as pupation to moth begins, they spin silk cocoons to hang inside the webs.

Emergence occurs in June, where elongated white and black spotted moths take flight to begin the next generation cycle of mating and laying eggs. The moth lifespan is short, usually perishing by October.

The U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Environmental Division says the spindle ermine moth caterpillars should not be confused with the oak processionary moth caterpillars, whose hairs are harmful to humans and pets. The two species of moth can usually be identified from the tree or shrub where the caterpillars are found and their contrast in appearances.

If a mass of caterpillars is spotted, and identity cannot be determined, please do not attempt to destroy them. Doing so may cause a person and the caterpillar unnecessary harm. Instead, you may submit photographs with location descriptions to the Environmental Division’s Facebook page to be reviewed. If appropriate, guidance may be given for whom is authorized to handle removal or if they can be left to thrive.

Additional contact information for the Environmental Division can be found on the garrison page.

Categories: Environmental News

Kilkeel: Orchard Ermine moth larvae strip hawthorn hedgerows

Image caption Millions of Orchard Ermine moth larvae have stripped long sections of the plant along a country road near Kilkeel

A mild winter is being blamed for an explosion of a pest that can devastate hawthorn hedgerows.

Millions of Orchard Ermine moth larvae have stripped long sections of the plant along a country road near Kilkeel, County Down.

The foliage has been consumed and the larvae have spun a long web over the bushes.

Local man Stephen Rooney discovered the phenomenon along the Slatemill Road.

Image caption The larvae have spun a long web over the hawthorn bushes

“It’s the strangest sight. I’ve never seen the likes before,” he said.

Image caption Moth expert Andrew Crory said the millions of larvae had the capacity to destroy large sections of a roadside ditch

Moth expert Andrew Crory of Ulster Wildlife said the Orchard Ermine moth larvae was a well-known pest of the hawthorn and blackthorn plants which make up much of Northern Ireland’s hedgerows.

He said the millions of larvae had the capacity to destroy large sections of a roadside ditch.

Image copyright Franziska Bauer Image caption The larvae turns into this moth

He blamed the mild winter but said the pest is a long standing problem.

“We’ve had them as long as we’ve had hawthorn,” he said.

Earlier this week, BBC News NI reported that tens of thousands of larvae had stripped a number of trees almost bare in the Belvoir Estate in Belfast.

Image caption The larvae infestation on a tree in the Belvoir estate

Spindle Ermine Moth Stock Photos and Images

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  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) caterpillars on a Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) bush
  • Spindle Ermine Moth larvae (Yponomeuta cagnagella : Yponomeutidae) in their web on spindle, UK.
  • A caterpillar of the spindle ermine moth (Yponomeuta cagnagella) crawling along a grass blade at Bexley, Kent. May.
  • Larvae of the spindle ermine moth. Dorset, UK.
  • Caterpillar of Spindle Ermine Moth (Yponomeuta cagnagella) hanging from silk. Sussex, UK
  • Spindle Ermine Moth Caterpillars
  • A bush in London covered in the communal web of the spindle ermine moth
  • Silken web spun by spindle ermine moth Yponomeuta cagnagella covering hedgerow in Wiltshire UK
  • spindle ermine, hohenlohe region, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Heilbronn-Franconia, Germany, (Yponomeuta cagnagella)
  • Spindle web ermine moth webs (Yponomeuta cagnagella) covering trees in Knockando, Scotland
  • Web of an Ermine Moth, Yponomeuta species, probably a Spindle Ermine Moth Yponomeuta cagnagella with caterpillars inside.
  • Caterpillars of the Pfaffenhütchen web moth, Spindle ermine, Erucae yponomeuta cagnagella
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella), two caterpillars at a silk, Germany
  • Spindle Ermine Yponomeuta cagnagella moth tree covered web by caterpillars
  • Caterpillar web of the Spindle Ermine moth (Yponomeuta cagnagella)
  • Caterpillars of the European spindle spirit moth (Yponomeuta cagnagella) in their web on the shrub (Euonymus europaeus)
  • Small ermine moth (Yponomeuta padella) caterpillars on a spindle tree leaf
  • Web of the Yponomeuta cagnagella Spindle Ermine on the plant.
  • Spindle Ermine Moth Caterpillars
  • Tent Caterpillars, make tent of silk on host hedgerow
  • bushes are full of small ermine moth
  • A caterpillar of the spindle ermine moth (Yponomeuta cagnagella) dangling on a thread of silk at Bexley, Kent. May.
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Caterpillar of Spindle Ermine Moth (Yponomeuta cagnagella) hanging by a thread. Sussex, UK
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) adult perched on a flower in a garden in Sowerby, North Yorkshire. August.
  • A bush in London covered in the communal web of the spindle ermine moth
  • Spindle Ermine Moth (Yponomeuta cagnagella), caterpillars at European Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus, Euonymus europaea)
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) moth infestation of Euonymus europaeus (spindle, European spindle, common spindle) bush
  • Spindle Ermine Moth caterpillars at European Spindle Tree North Rhine-Westphalia Germany / (Yponomeuta cagnagella) (Euonymus
  • Web of an Ermine Moth, Yponomeuta species, probably a Spindle Ermine Moth Yponomeuta cagnagella with caterpillars inside.
  • Caterpillars of the Pfaffenhütchen web moth, Spindle ermine, Erucae yponomeuta cagnagella
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella), several caterpillars in a web, Germany
  • Spindle Ermine Yponomeuta cagnagella moth tree covered web by caterpillars
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella, Yponomeuta cagnagellus), many caterpillars at silk thread, Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Silken web spun by spindle ermine moth Yponomeuta cagnagella covering hedgerow in Wiltshire UK
  • Spindle web ermine moth webs (Yponomeuta cagnagella) covering trees in Knockando, Scotland
  • Spindle ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella), web of caterpillars, North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Spindle Ermine Moth Caterpillars
  • Tent Caterpillars, make tent of silk on host hedgerow
  • Spindle Ermine Yponomeuta cagnagella
  • Spindle Ermine Yponomeuta cagnagella caterpillars in silk web on European Spindle Euonymus europaeus bush in ancient woodland
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Caterpillar of Spindle Ermine Moth (Yponomeuta cagnagella) climbing down silken thread. Sussex, UK
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) adult perched on a leaf in a garden in Sowerby, North Yorkshire. August.
  • A bush in London covered in the communal web of the spindle ermine moth
  • Small ermine moth Yponomeuta padella caterpillars on a spindle tree leaf
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) moth infestation of Euonymus europaeus (spindle, European spindle, common spindle) bush
  • Community of bird-cherry ermine on spindle tree
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella). Caterpillars in a nest of silk on a flowering plant. Germany
  • Caterpillars of the Pfaffenhütchen web moth, Spindle ermine, Erucae yponomeuta cagnagella
  • Spindle Ermine Yponomeuta cagnagella moth tree covered web by caterpillars
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella, Yponomeuta cagnagellus), many caterpillars at silk thread, Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Ramblers examine silken web spun by spindle ermine moth Yponomeuta cagnagella covering hedgerow in Wiltshire UK england britain
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella, Yponomeuta cagnagellus), caterpillar in the weave on a tree, Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Spindle web ermine moth webs (Yponomeuta cagnagella) covering trees in Knockando, Scotland
  • Spindle Ermine Moth Caterpillars
  • Tent Caterpillars, make tent of silk on host hedgerow
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) caterpillar, dangling on silken thread, Bexley, Kent, England, May
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) adult perched on a flower in a garden in Sowerby, North Yorkshire. August.
  • A bush in London covered in the communal web of the spindle ermine moth
  • Small or orchard ermine moth Yponomeuta padella web caterpillars on ornamental spindle tree
  • Caterpillars of the Pfaffenhütchen web moth, Spindle ermine, Erucae yponomeuta cagnagella
  • Euonymus europaeus, European spindle, ermine
  • spindle ermine
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella, Yponomeuta cagnagellus), caterpillar in the weave on a tree, Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Bush from the Pfaffenhütchen, Euonymus europaeus, eaten bare by the web moth.
  • ermine moths (Hyponomeutidae (Yponomeutidae)), ermine moths at a blooming spindle, Germany
  • Tent Caterpillars, make tent of silk on host hedgerow
  • Spindle web ermine moth webs (Yponomeuta cagnagella) covering trees in Knockando, Scotland
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) caterpillar, crawling along grass blade, Bexley, Kent, England, May
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) adult perched on a flower in a garden in Sowerby, North Yorkshire. August.
  • A bush in London covered in the communal web of the spindle ermine moth
  • Spindle web ermine moth webs (Yponomeuta cagnagella) covering trees in Knockando, Scotland
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) adult perched on a leaf in a garden in Sowerby, North Yorkshire. August.
  • Spindle web ermine moth webs (Yponomeuta cagnagella) covering trees in Knockando, Scotland
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) adult perched on a flower in a garden in Sowerby, North Yorkshire. August.
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Spindle Ermine (Yponomeuta cagnagella) adult perched on a leaf in a garden in Sowerby, North Yorkshire. August.
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge
  • Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinstmotte, Pfaffenhütchen-Gespinnstmotte, Gespinstmotte, Gespinnstmotte, Raupen, Raupengespinst an Pfaffenhütchen, Pfaffenhütchenge

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Spooky spindle spinner

I was recently asked to call to a neighbour’s garden to see if I could identify a garden pest.

Now this is something that I often do and as I went up, I was expecting to find a plague of greenfly, or some other aphid.

What I found was something that I had never seen before. It was like a scene from Arachnaphobia or a Harry Potter movie. A tree about 5 metres high and with a spread of about 4 metres was covered in what looked like a giant spider’s web.

When I got closer I saw that it was surrounded by flying little white moths with black markings. They are quite attractive little fellas if they weren’t doing such damage to the tree. The tree is a Euonymus europeaus or Spindle Tree to give it its common name and this it’s what helped me in my search to discover what was causing the phenomenon.

The culprit was the Ermine Spindle Moth and as the name suggests it’s specific to the Euonymus europeaus. Quite common in most parts of Britain I had never seen an infestation of this moth in Ireland before.

The caterpillars create this fantastic web over the tree to protect themselves from wasps and birds as they gorge on the sap of the tree. They will weaken their host and in time cause branches to die back and eventually the tree will die if the infestation is left untreated.

There are 600 species of ermine moth and they have the potential to defoliate a tree in days Many species are only to be found in the tropics with about 75 in Britain and Ireland. In one extreme case, an avenue of trees at Jesus Green in Cambridge was covered by these webs, and in 2011 in an urban park in Bradford, 15 trees were stripped of their leaves by moths and the cause was put down to the warm weather. So maybe these moths on this Spindle tree are a symptom of the glorious month we have been enjoying. The web has been visible for the last few months as and maybe the appearance of these webs in the future may indicated a long hot summer to come.

White Ermine Moth and caterpillar, Spilosoma lubricipeda

The White Ermine Moth, Spilosoma lubricipedia

The White Ermine Moth is a common species throughout much of the British Isles. The species flies mainly in a single generation from May to July with an occasional second generation in southern regions.

The adult moth has a wingspan of approximately 40 mm. Forewings are white with a variable number of black spots.

Both male and females are attracted to light.

The White Ermine caterpillar, Spilosoma lubricipedia

The White Ermine caterpillars grow to approximately 40 mm in length, feed on a wide variety of herbaceous plants and are very easy to rear.

The colour of the dorsal line of the fully grown caterpillar may be either red, orange or quite pale.

Other hairy caterpillar can be seen in the Hairy caterpillar gallery and British moth caterpillar gallery

The fully grown caterpillar of the closely related Buff Ermine is shown above left next to the fully grown White Ermine caterpillar.

The similar Water Ermine, Spilosoma urticae, is a localised species largely restricted to fens, marshland and coastal areas in the south east of the UK.

The White Ermine brood featured below were reared from eggs laid by a female attracted to light.

Eggs hatched in 4/5 days and the caterpillars were fully grown in 25 days.

The fully grown caterpillars are often seen racing over the ground in search of a pupating site.

The overwintering cocoons are formed amongst plant and leaf litter.

The cocoons overwinter and hatch in May.

More caterpillars can be seen in the Moth Caterpillar Gallery and hairy caterpillar guide.

Recommended reference books

The Colour Identification Guide to Caterpillars of the British Isles – Jim Porter.

Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland – Waring, Townsend and Lewington.

Moths of the British Isles – Bernard Skinnner.

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