A stunned mum thought Halloween had come early after discovering giant cobwebs covering trees and bushes at her local park.
Shocked, Sarah Longfellow, 34, first thought the foliage was covered in “silly twine” or “fake snow” before noticing the silken nests were alive with thousands of insects.
The mum – who has an intense phobia of spiders – admitted she was first “frightened” by the cobwebs, which had enveloped an entire tree and several bushes overnight.
But when she got closer to her hypnotized son Cain, 3, she said her fear turned into ‘fascination’ at the rare manifestation of nature – even when it found itself in his mouth .
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 afraid I would have a reaction. I didn’t know what was going to happen.
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“But when I looked online it said they were non-toxic and harmless to humans.”
Sarah, a council technical support office, from Wakefield, West Yorks., said she first spotted the mass of webs 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.”
Sarah said the insects had completely taken over the trees, plants and railings on one side of the Lock Lane Community Garden in Castleford, West Yorks.
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 were hanging from the trees and blowing in the wind.”
Sarah said she looked online to find out what kind of caterpillars it was after one, unfortunately, ended up in 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.”
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 can actually contain thousands of caterpillars, which usually appear in May or June.
The butterflies emerging from it later are white or grayish with black dots and resemble ermine fur garments.