This is the first year Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) caterpillars have been discovered in the Borough. When in great number the caterpillars can cause damage to oak trees, however it is the potential impact on people’s health that is of greatest concern.
The moth is a non-native insect first found in London 12 years ago, its caterpillars live and feed on oak leaves, but they can also be found on the ground around infected oak trees. Caterpillars seen on trees other than oak are unlikely to be OPM.
While the adult moths are harmless, the hairs of their caterpillars contain a strong irritant. Contact with these hairs can cause severe irritation, with skin rashes and less commonly sore throats, breathing difficulties and eye problems.
Both people and animals can be affected by touching the caterpillars, their nests, or windblown hairs that make contact with the skin. The greatest risk period is between May and July, but the hairs from the caterpillar can be present on old nests. Please consult your pharmacist, GP, NHS Direct or vet respectively if you or your animal are exposed and suffer an allergic reaction to the hairs of this caterpillar.
Under guidance from the Forestry Commission the Council has been undertaking a program to identify and treat locations where the insects are found. In recent weeks it has become apparent that the distribution of the insect is wide spread, migrating into the area from Bromley and Greenwich Borough’s. A significant number of nests have been removed from Danson Park and Lesnes Abbey Woods recently, nests of OPM caterpillars are also being found in smaller
numbers across some of the Borough’s other parks and Open spaces, however they could be present on any oak tree.
The Council is employing specialists to remove any nests found in high use areas on its parks and highways. Further information is available on the Council’s website, and a link to the Forestry Commission’sweb-site. www.bexley.gov.uk/opm
I advise schools/nurseries andyouth clubs with Oak trees in or adjacent to their grounds to be aware. Nests of caterpillars at or near ground level should be easy to notice, those higher up in the canopy can be more difficult. If in doubt you should contact your main tree contractor or the Forestry Commission (FC) and all sightings of OPM nests or caterpillars need to be reported to the FC.
Please note: These pests need to be removed by specialists and many smaller tree firms are not trained or equipped to deal with this pest. The Arboricultural Association’s website www.trees.org.uk has
an approved list of contractors.
At present the Council’s Tree Section does have some spare capacity for inspecting oak trees for OPM. This service is
Contact: Trees@Bexley.gov.uk Email Subject : OPM inspections