New outbreaks of Oak Processionary Moth reported

New outbreaks of Oak Processionary Moth have been confirmed in the UK. Oak Processionary Moth caterpillars have 70,000 toxic hairs and can cause health problems such as eye and skin irritation for people that come into contact with them.

OPM came to the UK from continental Europe after an infected nursery stock was imported. Warnings have now been issued to those living in areas where the outbreak has spread. Areas affected by the outbreak include Pangbourne in Berkshire and five west London boroughs.

Residents and gardeners in these areas have been told not to come into contact with the pests.

Dr Brian McCloskey, director of the Health Protection Agency, said: “We strongly advise people not approach the caterpillars or their nests because of the health risks.”

Dr McCloskey added that pets can also be affected by OPM.

Deputy Head of the Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Service, Stewart Snape, said that gardeners must report OPM outbreaks in oak trees and warned the public not to attempt to move the caterpillars or nests themselves as it is a job that should be carried by specially trained operators.