Brown-tail Moth Caterpillar (Euproctis chrysorrhoea)
The Brown Tail Moth is an insect pest found in Europe, North America and the coastal areas of England. The caterpillars (larvae of the moth) are found on shrubs and trees including Blackthorn, Bramble, Dog Rose, Hawthorn, Apple, Pear, Plum and Elm. Forsythia, Oak and Strawberry may also be infested.
Adult moths may be seen in July and August. They have white wings which measure 32-33 mm (1.3" - 1.5") across, white head and thorax, with a dark brown abdomen which has a tuft of brown hairs at the tip. They lay eggs from which hatch the caterpillars. The caterpillars may be seen August to October, then again after winter hibernation, from April to June. When ready to pupate in June they can be up to 25 mm/1" in length. The body is nearly black with two bright orange marks on the rear (abdominal) segments, which also have a row of downy white scales along the upper part of each side. The body has long yellowish brown hairs in tufts.
The caterpillars spin a silken home or tent which they gradually enlarge. These can be seen on plants as white silken bags which may be connected by white silken 'walkways' along branches.
This hairy caterpillar can cause severe problems if encountered too closely! The hairs have a poison gland at the base and a rash can be produced which may be severe in some people. Similarly, the hairs could produce severe damage were they to enter the eye. So, don't get too close when taking macro shots!