There has been an outbreak of Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillars (OPM), in London and they are spreading to Croydon / Bromley and Kent. The larvae, or caterpillars, of OPM are a pest because they can be a hazard to Oak Trees and to human and animal health.
TO TREES: OPM caterpillars can threaten the health of several species of oak trees (Quercus species) because they feed on the leaves. Large populations can strip whole oak trees bare of leaves, leaving them vulnerable to attack by other pests and diseases, and less able to withstand adverse environmental events such as drought and flood. They will attack other trees if they run short of oak leaves to eat, and have been observed attacking hornbeam, hazel, beech, sweet chestnut and birch trees.
TO PEOPLE AND ANIMALS: The caterpillars have thousands of tiny hairs which contain an urticating, or irritating, substance called thaumetopoein, from which the species derives part of its scientific name. Contact with the hairs can cause itching skin rashes and, less commonly, sore throats, breathing difficulties and eye problems. This can happen if people or animals touch the caterpillars or their nests, or if the hairs are blown into contact by the wind. The caterpillars can also shed the hairs as a defence mechanism.
If you come across any Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillars, please DO NOT touch the caterpillars or their nests! You can find out more on the subject of Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillars from the source of this article, on the Forestry website.
If you are concerned that your Oak Trees are infected with Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillars,
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