Moth which causes breathing difficulties found in Potters Bar

PUBLISHED: 12:30 02 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:30 02 June 2020

A cluster of oak processionary moths. Picture: Forestry Commission.

A cluster of oak processionary moths. Picture: Forestry Commission.

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A moth which causes breathing difficulties for people and pets has been found in Potters Bar and South Mimms.

A  typical nest of oak processionary moth caterpillars,  photographed by the Forestry Commission.A typical nest of oak processionary moth caterpillars, photographed by the Forestry Commission.

Residents have been warned to avoid the Oak Processionary Moth (OPM), which has been spotted at Parkfield in Potters Bar and at a private woodland in Ridge, and their nests, as they can cause itchy rashes, eye irritation and breathing problems.

Hertsmere borough councillor Seamus Quilty, portfolio holder for environment, said: ”During the lockdown period and warm weather our green spaces have been a welcome retreat for residents to spend time outside.

“Unfortunately, Oak Processionary Moths have been sighted in a few Hertsmere parks, so our message is to be vigilant, especially with young children who may be exploring trees this summer.

“Our parks team is working to control the spread of the moths and will be putting up safety notices in those parks affected to warn the public. If you discover an OPM nest or caterpillar, we ask that you ‘spot it, avoid it, report it’.”

Unconfirmed sightings of oak processionary moth caterpillars have been reported in St Albans. Picture: Henry Kuppen, Forestry CommissionUnconfirmed sightings of oak processionary moth caterpillars have been reported in St Albans. Picture: Henry Kuppen, Forestry Commission

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The greatest risk period is May to July when the caterpillars emerge and feed before pupating into adult moths, but nests, even old ones, should not be touched at any time.

The nests are typically dome or teardrop-shaped, ranging from the size of a ping pong ball to as large as a rucksack. They are white when fresh, but soon become discoloured and brown. The caterpillars have black heads and bodies covered in long white hairs and are easily recognised by their habit of crawling in large groups, nose-to-tail forming long lines on or around oak trees.

Cllr Quilty, added: “Officers have found infestations on a few council sites across the borough, which we are dealing with in the correct manner to minimise harm to the public.

“We are conducting a survey of all our high-use locations to establish the current spread alongside a strategy to remove existing infestations. This will not involve removing any infected oak trees on council land.”

If you see any nests or caterpillars in a council park you should report them immediately on 020 8207 2277 or email: customer.services@hertsmere.gov.uk

If they are on a privately owned oak tree, report them to the Forestry Commission using the Tree Alert online pest reporting form here forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/tree-alert/ or on 030 0067 442 or by email at opm@forestry.gsi.gov.uk.


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