My 5 day break was immediately followed by a domestic duty so I didn’t do a Salisbury run for nearly a week. On my first day back Paul D, another driver on the Salisbury rota, asked if I’d seen any of the strange ‘cobwebs’ which had appeared in hedgerows along the route. I told him I was yet to do the route again but would come prepared with my camera to try and record what’s suddenly happened. As soon as I’d left Winchester I began to spot what he was talking about. Here’s what they look like.
Taking a close up look it’s apparent that some sort of caterpillar is spinning the webs.
In my photos the webs appear covering healthy green foliage but many of the webs seem to cover what I at first assumed was dead hedgrow which hadn’t recovered from the massive mauling it got from the hedge cutting machines back in the winter. Now I think that assumption was wrong and that the ‘dead’ hedgerow is simply hedegrow from which every last bit of leaf has been stripped by these caterpillars. To confirm this I’ll need to inspect a bit of ‘dead’ hedgerow but it’s difficult when you’re driving a bus which is is in service. Passengars begin to wonder why you pull up in a country lane, hop out, and then peer intently into a hedge! Those passengars who are regulars have got used to some of my ways, they know why we’re slowing down at one point – this is the area where you may spot a black pheasant, or the water buffalo are near the road this time etc.
A bit of research indicates that the caterpillars are from the Small Ermine Moth.
The purpose of the webs is to protect the caterpillars from being eaten by birds and it seems to be very effective.
UPDATE. I’ve just been sent this link. Thanks, Jeff.