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The ermine moth caterpillars emerge when the weather gets warm and spin a cobweb over the trees to protect them from birds.
The high numbers this year could be because the cold winter has killed off predators like ladybirds. The cherry trees in Jesus Green, Cambridge have been stripped by the caterpillars and are now covered in a fine white cobweb.
Shocked locals have called one cherry tree avenue an “avenue of ghosts”. Southend Cemetery in Essex has also been described as a “spooky scene” after caterpillars covered shrubs and hedges around the graveyard with cobwebs.
Carol Simpson near Brechin in Angus says the caterpillars are all over her garden. "They are everywhere - all over the place. I can't have my windows open because they get in. "lt is disgusting and it makes my skin crawl," she said.
The caterpillars have also been reported in Guildford and around the home counties. Matt Shardlow, the chief executive of Buglife, the insect charity, admitted the caterpillars can look “spooky”.
In certain years he said there are more than usual for a combination of factors. This year it could be because the cold spring killed off predators. The caterpillars work in a “boom and bust” cycle and will not return to the same trees and the vegetation will recover he explained.
The caterpillars will turn into ermine moths, that are native to Britain and an important part of the ecosystem and he encouraged people to see the wonder in the “spooky” caterpillars.