Native species that may be mistaken for oak processionary moth

The larvae (caterpillars) of some of our native moths feed gregariously in communal nests built from silk webbing which can look similar to those produced by oak processionary moth.

Species with this habit such as lackey moth (Malacosoma neustria) and brown-tail moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea) are often encountered on oak during spring and early summer and may initially be mistaken for oak processionary moth.

Small ermine moths (Yponomeuta spp.) also produce large quantities of conspicuous silk webbing on a variety of host trees and shrubs, although they do not occur on oak.

Less frequent are larvae of the small eggar moth (Eriogaster lanestris), which also produce a silk nest. This species was formerly common in hedgerows, but it has become scarce and rather localised.

Although they do not build any form of nest, the hairy larvae of the buff-tip moth (Phalera bucephala) and vapourer moth (Orgyia antiqua) are often seen in groups, sometimes in quite large clusters. Both species have been confused, at times, with oak processionary moth.

Lackey moth lavae (Malacosoma neustria)
Lackey moth

Brown-tail moth lavae (Euproctis chrysorrhoea)
Brown-tail moth

Bird cherry ermine moth larvae (Yponomeuta evonymella)
Small ermine moth

Small Eggar moth lavae (Eriogaster lanestris) - photo © Jennifer Wiggins
Small Eggar moth

Buff-tip moth lavae (Phalera bucephala)
Buff-tip moth

Vapourer moth lavae (Orgyia antiqua) - photo © Ian Kimber
Vapourer moth

Photo of Lackey moth larvae © Steve Bennett

Photo of Small Eggar moth larvae © Jennifer Wiggins

Photo of Vapourer moth larvae © Ian Kimber