Oak Processionary Moth

Mole Valley residents are being advised by the Forestry Commission to be aware of what Oak Processionary Moth caterpillars and their nests look like and, if spotted, not to touch or get too close and to report the location of the insect as soon as possible.

The Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) was accidentally introduced to England in 2005. OPM caterpillars are active in the summer and there have been known sightings in London and neighbouring district and boroughs in the South-East in recent years. Nests are typically dome or teardrop-shaped and white when fresh, though it quickly changes to brown. The caterpillars have black heads and bodies covered in long white hairs. In large populations, the caterpillars can devastate the foliage of oak trees, leaving the tree vulnerable to other threats.

Not only can the caterpillars cause damage to trees, but the hairs of the insect can also cause health implications to humans and animals upon close contact. Public Health England has advised that a minority of the population (5-7%) is at risk of developing afflictions, ranging from minor skin complaints to anaphylaxis. This represents approximately the same percentage of people that suffer symptoms from bee and wasp stings.

Follow the Forestry Commission's advice "spot it, avoid it, report it" to ensure you, your child or pet avoids close contact with the caterpillars.

If you think you have seen processionary nests or caterpillars, make sure you have correctly identified the species. You can do this by:

• Reading the guide issued by the Forestry Commission

• or visiting the Forestry Commission YouTube Channel

You can report the sightings as follows:

• if they are located on privately owned land, report them to the Forestry Commission using the Tree Alert online reporting form. Alternatively, call 0300 067 442 or email opm@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

• if they are located on a Council-owned tree, report it by calling 01306 885001 or by email parks@molevalley.gov.uk

Last Updated: 19/07/2018

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