Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillar Warning Issued

Infestation in local park potentially harmful to humans

The caterpillars resemble greyish bundles of cotton
The caterpillars resemble greyish bundles of cotton

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A warning has been issued to the public to watch out for a potentially harmful caterpillar which has recently appeared in local parks.

Hounslow’s parks team is urging visitors to the borough’s parks and open spaces to be aware of an infestation of Oak Processionary Moth caterpillars that can cause eye and throat irritations.

Work is underway to remove the caterpillars, which nest in oak tree trunks and branches at this time of year. Residents and visitors should avoid contact with the caterpillars and report any sightings to the Forestry Commission’s Tree Alert Service to stop the spread.

Contact with the caterpillars can cause the irritations in humans. If left unchecked, they can cause serious harm to oak trees by stripping them of their leaves. This makes the tree more prone to disease and damage from other pests.

The caterpillars are easily recognisable because of their long white hairs and the way they travel in nose-to-tail processions. The nests are found on oak tree trunks or branches. They are rounded and sometimes hammock-like, resembling greyish bundles of cotton.

Over the next few weeks, GreenSpace 360 officers, the council operating company which manages parks in the borough, will be visiting all of the borough’s open spaces, starting with the most popular parks and playgrounds, to remove the caterpillars. Further removals will take place in July when typically, the nesting intensifies.

Hounslow Council’s Cabinet Member for Parking, Parks and Leisure, Councillor Salman Shaheen, said, “We would like to reassure our residents we are working as quickly as possible to deal with these infestations. We know how passionately our residents feel about the borough’s parks and open spaces. This is the ideal time of year to make the most of them.”

“However, we must ask people to stay away from these caterpillars if they spot them and prevent children from going near them.

“The best way to do this is to avoid spending time under or downwind of the infested oak trees, especially on windy days.”

“Every tree in our borough is precious and we are working hard to remove the infestations. Please do not try and remove them yourself. You can help by reporting any sightings to the Tree Alert Service and we will deal with it.”

If you do come into with the caterpillars and begin to feel the harmful effects, contact your GP or call 111. In an emergency you should call 999. Residents can report a sighting to the Tree Alert Service by visiting treealert.forestresearch.gov.uk.


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June 10, 2022

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