Will harmful moths arrive in Welwyn Hatfield?

PUBLISHED: 11:40 29 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:12 29 March 2017

A cluster of oak processionary moths. Picture provided by the Forestry Commission.

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A cluster of oak processionary moths. Picture provided by the Forestry Commission. .

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Council chiefs and wildlife experts are watching out for an exotic insect that can harm trees and people alike - the oak processionary moth (OPM).

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.

Native to southern Europe, the moth was introduced to southern England in 2005, with colonies more recently discovered as near as Watford and Barnet.

The caterpillars can strip leaves from oak trees, while people and animals that touch them can suffer skin irritations, sore throats and breathing difficulties.

A spokeswoman for the Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, which advises on management of Tarmac’s Panshanger Park and runs several Welwyn Hatfield nature reserves, said: “We are lucky in that we haven’t had OPM on our nature reserves yet, however we urge the public to be careful around anything that looks like OPM caterpillars or nests and let us know if they spot what they think could be OPM on our sites.

“OPM can spread so it is important that new cases are reported to the Forestry Commission.”

A spokeswoman for the borough council, which runs Sherrardspark Woods and several smaller parks, said: “We are aware of the threat posed by oak processionary moths but are yet to see them in Welwyn Hatfield.

“If we have a confirmed case of these moths in the borough, then we will of course act swiftly to warn people about the hazards via social media, site notices and a press release.

“Councillors and officers have been briefed so that we remain vigilant and prepared for any potential cases.”


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