On Looking into a Hedge
They have an expression down in Co Tipperary when asked to do something of great complexity: “You might as well be looking into a hedge.”
They have an expression down in Co Tipperary when asked to do something of great complexity: “You might as well be looking into a hedge.” This could be said by a husband asked to put on the washing machine, when confronted with the complexity of the dial – although the same husband has no problem watching a football match on television while simultaneously recording another match using two remote controls at the same time. So imagine the consternation when on looking into hedges in the adjoining counties of Kilkenny, Carlow and Kildare the peerers were confronted with a sight as shown in this picture. Further examination revealed it to be caused by thousands of caterpillars who had spun this web about themselves and were happily denuding the shrubs of the hedge of all their leaves.
What was this – some new creature arrived here because of global warming and one about to wreak devastation on all the hedges of the country?
It is actually the caterpillar of the orchard ermine moth – rare enough in this country but not unknown. In certain years it goes on the rampage in hedges. Thousands of caterpillars hatch out, they feast on the leaves of blackthorn or related shrubs and then pupate and turn into white furry moths with black spots. The hedges will recover at this point as all moths only eat at the caterpillar stage and not the adult stage. The webs are very effective at protecting the caterpillars from being eaten by hungry birds although the adults form a tasty morsel if caught by a sharp-eyed bird. This is why such obviously seen species of moths fly at night when the birds are asleep. They form a large part of the diet of bats however – another good reason for loving and encouraging bats.
But it certainly is a spectacular sight as a web covered caterpillar colony and rewards the effort expended looking into a hedge.