Residents warned to stay clear of caterpillar nests
04/06/2014 12:26:00......Posted by Lynne Hale
Nests filled with thousands of toxic caterpillar hairs should be avoided by people and pets, Croydon Council is warning.
Residents in some areas of the borough are being reminded not to touch the nests of the oak processionary caterpillar that makes its home in oak trees, especially during June. They are also being advised to protect animals from contact with the nests, and to report sightings to the Forestry Commission or Croydon Council.
The warning has been issued because the nests are filled with the caterpillars’ hairs containing an irritating substance that can cause unpleasant skin rashes and, occasionally, eye and throat irritations in people and animals.
A tree pest that, in large numbers can strip oak trees bare of leaves, leaving them weakened and vulnerable to other threats, the caterpillar is the larval stage of the moth. In June, it builds distinctive white, silken, webbing nests and trails on the trunks and branches of oaks.
Council teams have been out with Forestry Commission officers removing nests as they’re reported, but people should remain vigilant and report the nests and caterpillars to the Council or the Forestry Commission, so that they can be dealt with properly.
Ian Gambles, of the Forestry Commission, is encouraging local people to help tackle the pest by reporting sightings of the nests and caterpillars, but not to touch or approach them.
He said: “We advise people against trying to remove the nests themselves, even if they own the oak tree. To be as effective and safe as possible, this job needs to be timed just right and done by people with the right training and equipment, and the nests must be disposed of properly. The Forestry Commission will meet the costs under a Defra-funded programme for tackling OPM.”
People are advised to see a pharmacist for relief from milder skin or eye irritations following possible OPM contact, or consult a GP or NHS111 for more-serious reactions. Contact a vet if pets are affected.
Sightings can be reported to the council by calling 020 8726 6200 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, contact the Forestry Commission via its Tree Alert app or online form available at www.forestry.gov.uk/opm, or by email to email@example.com.
Health advice is available from the “Insects that bite or sting” area of
Working on oak trees – Anyone having oak trees pruned or felled in the affected areas must contact the Forestry Commission’s plant health service beforehand on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0300 067 5155 for advice about safe removal of the material.
Further information is available from www.forestry.gov.uk/opm.
Images can be previewed on the Forestry Commission website at www.forestry.gov.uk/pictures using "oak processionary" in the search facility, and requested from email@example.com; telephone 0300 067 5043.