Annual warning to beware the oak processionary moth
Residents are being warned to keep children and animals away from hairy caterpillars and their nests in oak trees.
The oak processionary moth (OPM) caterpillars could be nesting in trees across the borough. They have tiny hairs which contain a protein that can cause itchy skin rashes and, less frequently, eye and throat irritations and breathing difficulties in people and animals.
The greatest risk period is May to July, although nests should not be approached at any time because detached hairs remain within them. The Forestry Commission website has pictures to help identify the pest.
Householders who find evidence of the pest in their own oak trees should report it to the Forestry Commission.
“We know this is the time of year when the caterpillars build their distinctive white, silken nests and trails on the trunks and branches of oak trees, and can sometimes be as big as a tennis ball. They become discoloured and harder to see after a time. They may be interesting to a curious child or pet, so please take care and report any sightings to the Forestry Commission.”
The Forestry Commission advises that the oak processionary caterpillars only build their nests on the trunks and branches of oak trees. They are never found among the leaves of an oak tree or on structures such as buildings, gates and fences, so caterpillars or nests in these situations need not be reported. They are only rarely found in other trees, and usually only if they run out of oak leaves to eat.
Anyone displaying symptoms including skin or eye irritations following possible OPM contact should visit a pharmacist, or call NHS111 for more-serious reactions. Contact a vet if an animal is affected.
More health advice is also available from the “Insects that bite or sting” area of the NHS Choices website, www.nhs.uk/livewell
For further information visit the Forestry Commission website: www.forestry.gov.uk/opm
May 6, 2018