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Wait and see what they turn out to be but my money will be on an ermine moth
Wild Flower Society member
White Ermine caterpillars feed on low growing docks and dandelions, and to the best of my knowledge do not cluster gregariously on webs. Brown Tails do, and are very common on shrubs along the south coast.
"Ermine" is also used in the name of a group of web spinning micro moths. There was a much publicised incident last year when a car in Rotterdam was well and truely webbed. See for example:
I know very little about catepillars, other than the photograph looks very much like Processionary Caterpillars that have recently arrived from the Continent, 'Pine Processionary Caterpillar Thaumetopoea pityocampa' - hope it isn't these as they are highly dangerous to the pine trees, animals etc.
...then wouldn't they'd be feeding on pine trees rather than the deciduous shrub in the photograph?
Indeed that is generally the case, but you do occasionally see them on other types of plant.
There are thousands of these on a site I have been working on at Grimsby today and found several on my overalls. I have had some skin irritation and sore eyes since and it seems these are to blame. Some process was carried out on Spurn Point to try to limit their breeding last year as they were causing big problems for the lifeboat staff and families.
Additionally, the recent arrival is Oak Processionary, Thaumetopoea processionea, which feeds mainly on oak, unsurprisingly. These are clearly Brown-Tail - they're quite distinctive larvae - but they're a nuisance to humans in the same way, by feeding communally and using venom-tipped hairs for protection - the hairs are loosely attached and fall out frequently, coating the webs, and when it gets windy, there's a plume of hairs downwind - this has been a problem when washing lines, for example, have been downwind
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Lat/Lng: 50.5, -2.5
OS grid ref: SY6676