Look out for swags of what looks like spiders webs in local hedgerows

By Crediton Courier Contributor   |   Crediton Courier Contributor   |
Saturday 14th May 2022 3:36 pm
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Spindle Ermine Moth caterpillars in their webs.
Spindle Ermine Moth caterpillars in their webs. (Tony Gale )

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IF, over the next few weeks, you happen to notice what appear to be swags of spiders webs in local hedgerows – look again. They might be the webs of the Spindle Ermine Moth.

This moth always lays its eggs on Spindle trees – which are often found in the bushy or woody parts of Devon hedgebanks.

After a few weeks, the eggs hatch out and the funnel-like webs become home to hundreds of caterpillars which proceed to munch their way through the leaves of the host plant.

Why, “Ermine”? The adult moths are white with black spots – resembling the ermine robes traditionally worn by judges and peers of the realm.

You can find much more about the moths at: https://butterfly-conservation.org/moths/spindle-ermine .

The Spindle (tree) gets its name from having been used for centuries to make spindles for spinning wool into thread.

It is possible that the tree is common in the Crediton area because of the town’s long association with the cloth industry – and particularly with spinning.

Thomas Wescote, writing in the 1630s, said: “the aptness and diligent industry of the inhabitants did purchase (Crediton) a super-eminent name above all other towns, whereby grew the common proverb, ‘as fine as Kirton spinning’.”

But be warned; the leaves and berries of the tree are poisonous to humans; eating them might induce a coma. There could be an echo of this in the Sleeping Beauty story – where the princess pricks her finger on a spindle and falls into a deep sleep.

Now there’s a story you can spin over the next few weeks…

Tony Gale

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