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.
Residents should report sightings of OPM to the Forestry Commission by calling 0300 067 4442 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/opm.
Councillor David Hawksworth CBE, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, said: "It is really important that this pest is controlled to help protect the magnificent oak trees. If you see an OPM nest or caterpillar, make sure that you keep your distance and report it to the Forestry Commission as soon as you can."