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Toxic caterpillars spotted in Bromley's oak trees

PUBLISHED: 16:58 29 April 2013 | UPDATED: 11:38 30 April 2013

Oak processionary moth caterpillars

Oak processionary moth caterpillars

Archant

Caterpillars with tiny, toxic hairs could soon be spotted in Bromley's oak trees, leading Public Health England to urge residents to keep their distance.

The oak processionary moth was accidentally introduced to Britain from mainland Europe in 2006, and is a tree pest which feeds on leaves.

Their hairs can cause skin rashes in people and animals, while eye and throat irritations have also been reported after contact. Wind can often carry the hairs, which pose the greatest risk from May to July.

The Forestry Commission is working with local authorities and land managers to tackle the outbreaks with a carefully controlled programme of tree spraying and nest removal, which took place last year in South Eden Park and West Wickham.

Ian Gambles, director of Forestry Commission England, said: “We need, and welcome, reports of the caterpillars or their nests from the public or others, such as gardeners and tree surgeons, who are out and about in areas with oak trees.

“However, the public should not try to remove the caterpillars or nests themselves. This task needs to be carefully timed to be most effective, and is best done by specially trained and equipped operators.”

People are urged to keep children, pets and livestock away from the caterpillar nests, and report any sightings at forestry.gov.uk/oakprocessionarymoth.

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