Residents advised to keep away from caterpillars

People are advised not to touch or approach the nests of oak processionary moth (OPM) caterpillars, which have been found on a small number of oak trees in the borough.

The oak processionary moth

Working with the Forestry Commission and pest removal contractors, Ealing Council has been removing nests from oak trees throughout the summer.

OPM caterpillars, the larval stage of the insect, shed toxic white hairs that can become airborne. These tiny hairs contain a toxin that can cause an itchy rash and occasionally eye and throat irritations. Both humans and animals can be affected, with most cases occurring in the summer months.

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “Residents are advised to contact the Forestry Commission or the council if they spot oak processionary moth caterpillars or nests in their garden or in a public area. However, we urge people not to try to remove the nests or the caterpillars themselves. A specially trained and equipped team will remove the pests at the right time and dispose of them correctly.”

Since OPM caterpillars were first sighted in Ealing in 2006, the population has been contained in the same general area within the borough. This is thanks to members of the public informing the council of sightings, along with early sprayings of the main OPM caterpillar sites.

Ealing Council and Forestry Commission tree inspectors are currently surveying oak trees on private and public land where they’ve been found.  Oak tree owners are also encouraged to check their trees carefully for signs of the pest and report any suspicions.

Report sightings to the Forestry Commission’s Forest Research Agency by calling 01420 22255 or emailing christine.tilbury@forestry.gsi.gov.uk or Ealing Council by calling 020 8825 6611 or emailing trees@ealing.gov.uk

Anyone who has any of the symptoms and suspects they have been exposed to the caterpillars’ hairs should contact their GP or NHS Direct on 08454647. Health information is available from the Health Protection Agency website,http://www.hpa.org.uk/.

Further information about OPM caterpillars is available atwww.forestry.gov.uk/oakprocessionarymoth