Bushes in West Yorkshire covered in giant webbing made by hordes of spindle ermine caterpillars

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A stunned mum was shocked to find giant cobwebs had covered trees and bushes in her local park, making her think Halloween had come early this year.

Sarah Longfellow, 34, first thought the leaves had ‘silly string’ or ‘fake snow’ on them before realizing they were really silken nests for thousands of insects.

Ms Longfellow has an intense fear of spiders, so she was ‘frightened’ by cobwebs, which had completely covered a tree and entire bushes overnight.

Her phobia turned into a “fascination” with nature’s rare exposure when she discovered hordes of hungry caterpillars writhing in the park’s webs and railings.

Arachnophobe Sarah Longfellow was greeted by a mass of bug nests at her local park in the form of masses of bug nests covering fences, trees, bushes and benches.

A bug entered Ms Longfellow's mouth as she and her son inspected the webs more closely

A bug entered Ms Longfellow’s mouth as she and her son inspected the webs more closely

A bug even ended up in her mouth when she got close to her 3-year-old son Cain.

She said: ‘When we went it looked like Halloween had come early but then I noticed the webs were real.

“At first I thought it was going to be spiders, which terrifies me, but my son loves it.

“However, as we got closer, it turned out to be caterpillars inside and under the webs, and then it became more fascinating to me.”

She added: ‘I was freaking out a bit when someone accidentally entered my mouth and I was worried I might have a reaction. I didn’t know what was going to happen.

“But when I looked online it said they were non-toxic and harmless to humans.”

The caterpillars eventually create cocoons and emerge as stoats

The caterpillars eventually create cocoons and emerge as stoats

Masses of webs looked like stupid string at first

Masses of webs looked like stupid string at first

Ms Longfellow, a West Yorkshire council technical support office, said she first spotted the mass of webbing last week while driving with her son.

She said: “The first time I saw them I was walking past May 22.

“We were on our way to a party, and I thought someone had sprayed some stupid string on some bushes – it looked like snow.

“On the way back I stopped as I thought it was a little weird and then I thought it was going to be a bunch of spiders.

“But I was happy they turned out to be caterpillars, and my son liked them too, because he loves The Hungry Caterpillar book.”

The trees looked covered in snow in the summer

The trees looked covered in snow in the summer

The mother thought someone had covered the park in fake Halloween canvases

The mother thought someone had covered the park in fake Halloween canvases

Flying webs covered half the park in West Yorkshire

Flying webs covered half the park in West Yorkshire

Ms Longfellow said the insects had completely taken over the trees, plants and railings on one side of the Lock Lane Community Garden in Castleford, West Yorkshire.

She said: “The caterpillars were all under the webs – it was so amazing – and they had also covered a number of bushes.

‘I’ve never seen anything like it. They hung from the trees and blew in the wind.

The mother said she searched online to find out what species of caterpillars it was after one entered her mouth.

She said: ‘I googled them after one came into my mouth by accident, and it turns out they’re called Hermine Moths.

“When I looked online it said they were non-toxic and harmless to humans, and an expert confirmed they were non-toxic.

No surface has been left untouched as webs weave between trees, bushes, fences and benches

No surface has been left untouched as webs weave between trees, bushes, fences and benches

A white coating full of life as the insects often eat the leaves but they scavenge

A white coating full of life as the insects often eat the leaves but they scavenge

White butterflies with grayish white or black dots that resemble ermine fur garments eventually emerge from the webs

White butterflies with grayish white or black dots that resemble ermine fur garments eventually emerge from the webs

She added: “Apparently they create these webs to protect themselves from birds. They strip all the leaves and have cocoons, then later turn into moths.

The webs contain thousands of caterpillars, which usually emerge in May or June.

The masses of silken webs slowly disappear over the summer, allowing bushes and trees to recover.

The moths that eventually appear from it are white or grayish with black dots and resemble ermine fur garments, hence their species name.

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