Oak moths

Oak moths that cause deadly asthma attacks and vomiting have been spotted in parks – here’s how to spot them and what to do if you find a nest

  • Larval stage of oak processionary moths spotted in the south-east of England
  • Hairs on the caterpillars cause severe dizziness, fever and throat irritations
  • The Royal Forestry Society tweeted people must be vigilant earlier this week
  • Forestry Commission warns the outbreak could spread throughout England
  • The pests’ hairs can also cause serious damage to cats and dogs if exposed 

A plague of toxic caterpillars that cause life-threatening asthma attacks, vomiting and skin rashes has descended on the UK, officials warn.

Oak processionary moths (OPM), which are in their larval stage, have been spotted across vast regions of south-east England, with numbers steadily rising over the past two weeks.

Hairs on the caterpillars, which feed off oak trees, contain toxins that cause severe dizziness, fever, and eye and throat irritations.

On Twitter this week, the Royal Forestry Society wrote: ‘It’s time to be vigilant! Oak Processionary Moth spotted in parks.’

A spokesman for the Forestry Commission said: ‘It is theoretically possible that if [the pests] were to spread [they] could survive and breed in much of England and Wales.’

He added the caterpillars are distinguishable by their incredibly hairy bodies and white, silk-like nests on oak tress.

If spotted, experts stress people should keep back and report the sighting to the Forestry Commission.

A plague of toxic caterpillars that cause life-threatening asthma attacks, vomiting and skin rashes has descended on the UK, officials warn. They have been spotted in the south east

A plague of toxic caterpillars that cause life-threatening asthma attacks, vomiting and skin rashes has descended on the UK, officials warn. They have been spotted in the south east

Image shows a person's skin reaction after being exposed to the caterpillars' highly toxic hairs

Image shows a person’s skin reaction after being exposed to the caterpillars’ highly toxic hairs

 

The pests nest on oak trees, leaving white, silk-like trails that are around a tennis ball in size 

The pests nest on oak trees, leaving white, silk-like trails that are around a tennis ball in size

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