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First sighting this year of potentially hazardous caterpillar confirmed in Surrey

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First sighting this year of potentially hazardous caterpillar confirmed in Surrey

Published by the Eagle Radio News Team at 6:00am 16th May 2020.

The first sighting of a potentially hazardous pest has been confirmed in Surrey. 

The Oak Processionary Moth caterpillar has been spotted in Woking and we are being reminded never to touch them. 

It can cause itchy rashes, eye irritations and even breathing difficulties in people and pets.

Oak Processionary Moth caterpillars

Oak Processionary Moths have been present in the UK since 2012 with infestations found in London and parts of the South East.

Nests are typically dome or teardrop-shaped, which can vary in size, from a ping pong ball to as large as a rucksack.

The moths are white when fresh, but soon become discoloured and brown.

The caterpillars have black heads and bodies covered in long white hairs that contain proteins which can cause itchy rashes, eye, and throat irritations

Between May and July is the greatest risk period is when the caterpillars emerge and feed before growing into adult moths.

Nests should never be touched, even old ones.

Craig Harrison, the Forestry Commission’s South-East England Director, said if you spot one you should report it:

“Now more than ever people are appreciating the value of their local woods, parks and gardens for daily exercise and wellbeing.

"We want them to be safe places for everyone to enjoy, and the public can help us by reporting OPM nests and caterpillars to us.

“However, please don’t try to remove the nests yourself.

"To be as effective and safe as possible, this job needs to be done by people with the right training and equipment, and the nests must be disposed of properly.”

All sightings of caterpillars and nests on either public or private land need to be reported to the Forestry Commission,

You report a sighting of OPM online, email opm@forestrycommission.gov.uk  or call 0300 067 4442.

You will need to give a precise location as to where the infestation was sighted and, if possible, provide a photo.