Hundreds of thousands of furry caterpillars have stripped the leaves off more than a dozen trees after taking up residence in Redcar cemetery.

They have managed to munch their way through all the leaves on the Poplar trees in the children’s section and the Friends of Redcar Cemetery are at a loss as to what they can do to stop the caterpillars stripping more trees.

Ged Fleming, the group’s chairman, said: “There are hundreds of thousands of caterpillars that have made their home in the cemetery and they have stripped all of the leaves off around 14 to 15 of the Poplar trees. We have no idea what kind of caterpillar they are but they are having a devastating effect on the trees.

“I have never seen anything like this before in the cemetery and they are making a mess of the grave stones. We have been in contact with the council, as they own the cemetery, to find out if there is anything that they can do to sort the problem out.”

Christopher Massey, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council’s cabinet member for environment and rural affairs, said the council was aware of the issue.

He said: “While an infestation of this type is unusual it is natural and we have experienced it elsewhere in the borough.

“The trees are likely to recover and we expect that the local bird population will help restore the natural order of things before the remaining caterpillars turn to moths and fly away.

“Meanwhile, the council is reminding people that some caterpillars can cause irritation and that contact should be avoided.”