Caterpillars cover Shropshire roundabout with stunning 'silk web'

It is like a scene from a science fiction movie but have no fear – it is not aliens that have descended on Shropshire, this spectacular sight is thanks to the efforts of thousands of caterpillars.

The spectacular sight has been created by caterpillars.
The spectacular sight has been created by caterpillars.

Anyone who has visited the Meole Brace Retail Park in Shrewsbury in recent days will have seen the incredible spectacle of a roundabout almost entirely covered in what appears – at first glance – to be mountains of spider web.

The real answer isn't far from the assumption, with the actual culprits being thousands of caterpillars, creating a safe home until they hatch into Ermine moths.

The covering – effectively copious layers of silk sheets spun by the caterpillars – has gathered plenty of attention with passers-by stopping to grab a snap of the unusual sight.

The hedge has drawn visitors in recent days

John Hughes, development manager at Shropshire Wildlife Trust, has been able to shed some light on the situation and said the occurrence, while spectacular, is not as uncommon as people may assume.

He said: "Classically you get this on hedgerows and you will get great lengths of hedgerow covered in what is in effect silk.

"They spin this web to give themselves protection and underneath the web they are chomping away on leaves and whatever. In a few days they will hatch out and fly off and the web will disintegrate fairly quickly."

The caterpillars are feasting on the foliage before becoming moths

Mr Hughes said the phenomenon was a stunning sight and also explained that people would be able to see through the webbing where the caterpillars have been eating the leaves on the bushes.

He said: "It is quite common but spectacular, particularly when it covers a big area.

"It is completely harmless unless you're a shrub in which case you are getting eaten.

"Moths and plants have evolved together over history and various moth caterpillars will eat the leaves but the leaves will grow back – it is no different to pruning roses, you prune the roses and they grow back perfectly fine."

Mr Hughes said that similar cases would take place across the county every year, but that it is unlikely to be in the same place.

He said: "I have seen it locally to me in Shrewsbury and we have had reports of it in Craven Arms.

"It is around but presumably while the weather conditions have not suited us much they have suited the Ermine Moth caterpillars and they are doing very well."

The roundabout is dominated by the silky canopy

Ultimately the covering provides safety from the caterpillars' natural predators – birds.

Mr Hughes said: "If you were a caterpillar you would want to avoid being eaten by a bird and that is what this will do."

The bush will be home to 'literally thousands' of the caterpillars according to Mr Hughes, although the spectacular site will disappear over the coming days.

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