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Beyond the Lone Islands

Friday, 2 July 2010

Ghost Trees


Some trees this summer are not happy. First impression is that they’re all dead, because all the leaves are gone.

On closer inspection, it seems that some of the smaller and creepier of God’s creations are VERY happy this year: The Bird Cherry Ermine caterpillars.

Because the caterpillars make weblike nests, they can eat a whole tree bare unhindered.

“Yucky” warning for the following pictures
(I can’t believe I even took them):


Nest of caterpillars


When they’ve finished off one tree, they move on to the next by using the old rope trick … There were lots of these “ropes” of caterpillars hanging on to each other, swinging from the branches of the bare tree.

But they are choosy little buggers. Apparently they only eat Bird Cherry trees; nothing else is to their taste.

I pass these Bird Cherry trees on one of my usual walks. I never actually knew what kind of trees they were until just recently when they started to appear ghost-like. Now I get a creepy feeling every time. I catch myself kind of huddling as I pass - as if that would help!

Bird-cherry Ermine

Here’s a picture of Mummy (or perhaps Daddy?) Bird Cherry Ermine Moth, from the Wikipedia article. Judging from the number of caterpillars in those trees, I guess later in the summer we should have like a gazillion of these flying around…? The wingspan according to Wiki is 16-25 mm so quite small. And harmless except to this one kind of tree. Apparently though, even though all the leaves may get eaten, the tree does not actually die from the attack.

I was trying to come up with some kind of parallel to human life from all this but I fail. Some things in Nature are just Strange!

Swedish name of the tree: Hägg.
Insect: Häggspinnmal.


Sandra said...

what could be stranger than us humans, that is the question. these are really, really strange, first i have heard of these. in Savannah Georgia, the trees used to be full of webby looking things like this, and now from this i know it was some kind of catepillars, just not which kind. they are way creepy and i would huddle when i walked past also. i am glad you showed them to us and told us about them. i like learning new things even when they are creepy looking

Ginny said...

Ewww! Well, I'm glad you answered my first question, which was if they kill the trees. And I'm so glad for your links, so I can go and read a bit more about it. I see that they used to use the bark of that tree to ward off plague. Well, totally creepy, yet interesting, and good for you for getting up the nerve to take those pictures. The rope thing is really fascinating! The little moths are kind of pretty with the black and white.

GB said...

There's nothing stranger than nature that's for sure. I saw something similar in Canada but discovered the nest was made by a rather unpleasant, large and poisonous spider. Either way it's rather skin crawl making.


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