Warning issued about dangerous caterpillars in Brent

People are urged to report any sightings of caterpillars of the oak processionary moth. Picture cour

People are urged to report any sightings of caterpillars of the oak processionary moth. Picture courtesy of the Forestry Commission - Credit: Forestry Commission

Residents are being warned about a dangerous caterpillar which could be emerging from Oak trees in Brent.

The Forestry Commission (FC) is urging people to report any sightings of the oak processionary caterpillar which pose a risk to humans and animals.

The caterpillars, which were accidentally introduced to Britain from Europe in 2006, have tiny, toxin-containing hairs which, on contact, can cause itchy skin rashes and irritation to the eye and throat.

In addition their hairs can be blown in the wind, and left in the silken, web-like nests which the caterpillars build in oak trees.

The caterpillars pose the greatest risk from May to July, although nests should not be approached at any time.

FC, local councils and land managers are tackling the pest with a carefully controlled programme of tree treatment and nest removal which resulted in a decrease of outbreaks last year.

Ian Gambles, FC’s director England, said: “We welcome reports of the caterpillars or their nests from the public or others, such as gardeners, tree surgeons and groundcare workers, who are out and about near oak trees,” he said.

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“However, they should not try to remove the caterpillars or nests themselves. This needs to be carefully timed to be effective, and is most safely done by specially trained and equipped operators.”

Dr Yvonne Doyle, London Regional Director of Public Health England, added: “We strongly advise people not to touch or approach the caterpillars or their nests because of the health risks posed by the toxin-containing hairs. Pets can also be affected, and should be kept away as well.

“We have issued advice to local GPs and health professionals to help them identify when patients have been affected by the caterpillars and to advise them on appropriate treatment.”

Any sightings should be reported to FC by visiting www.forestry.gov.uk/opm or email opm@forestry.gsi.gov.uk.

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