A ROW has erupted after a social housing provider ‘evicted’ around 20,000 caterpillars in Birchwood.

Your Housing Group contractors chopped down four trees outside tenants’ homes in Spinal Path, a footpath that runs from Admirals Road to the back of Birchwood Medical Centre.

The trees were completely coated in a spooky white silky webbing from an infestation of bird-cherry ermine moth caterpillars.

Cocoons also hung from some of the branches like something from the Alien movies.

The webbing, which was so thick it looked like plastic, is designed to protect the caterpillars and their food source before they pupate into moths.

But residents were creeped out when they saw thousands of the bugs squirming around on the prunus padas trees.

Peter Harrison, head of Cheshire for Your Housing Group, said: “Four trees were removed by Your Housing Group due to a particularly heavy infestation of ermine moth, which affects this particular species of tree.

“The infestation was reported to Your Housing Group by a number of residents, and given the trees proximity to surrounding residential properties, and the extent of the infestation, the decision was made that it would be better to remove the trees completely.”

But Jules Howard, a zoologist and nature columnist, has slammed the social housing provider for destroying a wonder of nature.

In his blog, Nature’s Footnote, he said: “Those ermine moth caterpillars weren’t monsters.

“They were creatures that belonged here. Creatures that were making human heads spin, and creating wonder and disgust in equal measure in a single avenue in a small town in the north west.

“Certainly no threat to anyone or anything.

“Some trees lose all their leaves in a week or so to these occasional infestations though the trees usually bounce back in full health the following year.

“They’re spectacular and weird but fine in other words.”

Jules, who has written for Countryfile and Gardener's World, added: “It seems a shame that a few complaints about an unusual native species – evolved not to infest but to co-exist – is all it took for Your Housing Group to fire up the chainsaws.

“Let's hope Your Housing Group treat their human residents with more respect and understanding."