Cerura vinulais, or the Puss Moth, is an extraordinary fluffy insect, that will sometimes end up in your back garden! They're classified as common in most of their range, requiring Sallows, Willow, Aspen or Poplar to survive and breed. If you're lucky, you can see these insects between April and July, location-dependent. They thrive in moorland, gardens, hedgerows, scrubland and open woodland.
Healthy plants can withstand any damage.
May squirt formic acid when alarmed.
Adults: Mature moths are large, white-grey and, very fluffy indeed! They're named puss moths after their furry features. The front arms and dotted-thorax are covered in what appears to be fur, but it's actually specialised wing scales giving them this appearance. The females possess grey hindwings, whereas the males have elaborate, feathered antennae, used in mate detection. Larvae: The caterpillars are distinctive-looking but extremely hard to spot when amongst plants. Caterpillars are mostly green with bold red and purple patterning. The head is wide, circular and dark purple-black. It also possesses a blue and black tail, with 2 pinkish-red streamers, which it waves when threatened. It has 4 pairs of stumpy, circular prolegs. The 3 pairs of legs beneath the head are green with blue-black stripes. White circles with black outlines run down the sides of the body. Pupae: Puss moth cocoons are dark brown-red and shiny, but it's enclosed in a shell-type structure made from mud and plant debris. Eggs: Puss Moth eggs are laid singly, in pairs or sometimes in threes. They're laid on the upper surface of the host plant.
Widespread across Europe; restricted to southern UK.
Most plants will be able to withstand the damage, if healthy and established. Regularly monitoring trees and providing them with good conditions to flourish will allow a better chance of survival. Many will possess an abundance of natural enemies to help keep their numbers at manageable levels, but in some instances, this isn't always true.
For large trees, it might be worth letting nature take its course. Trees will recover and grow normally in the following year.