In areas such as the coastal regions of southeastern England, infestations of this locally distributed and sporadically important species occur occasionally on fruit trees. The pest is, however, far more notorious as a public nuisance and defoliator of hedges. The urticating hairs of the larvae can cause skin rashes.
Adults fly in July and August. Egg batches, covered in hairs from the female's anal tuft, are then laid on twigs of host plants, especially Crataegus monogyna and Primus spinosa. Eggs hatch in about 3 weeks and the larvae immediately spin a dense, opaque communal web or tent in which they feed and eventually hibernate. In spring, larvae become active and often bask on the outside of the tent during sunny weather. The webbing is extended over the branches as the larvae
Fig. 313 Buff-tip moth, Phalera bucephala (x2).
grow. Older larvae often wander away and become more or less solitary. Pupation occurs singly or in groups on host plants, amongst a web of silk.
Adult 32-42mm wingspan; head and thorax white and fluffy; abdomen brown, with a distinct anal tuft of hair (in the female, bulbous and dense) (Fig. 314); forewings brilliant white (in
the male, occasionally with a few black dots); hindwings white. Larva up to 40mm long; body black with white subdorsal patches, a pair of sometimes indistinct broken red lines along the back, and tufts of gingery hair arising from prominent black warts; a prominent orange-red spot (gland) on the sixth and another on the seventh abdominal segment; head black and shiny (Plate 14d).
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