Oak Processionary Moth: Spot it. Avoid it. Report it.
At Nicholsons, biosecurity and the health of our staff and clients remain the utmost priority. Around this time of year, Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) caterpillars are active, fully developed, and have begun weaving their silk nests on oak trees.
Unlike most notifiable tree pests this caterpillar/moth, native to southern and central Europe, poses a year-round human health risk from their shed hairs – particularly from concentrations of hairs found in their nests.
For anyone working on, under, or near oak trees, familiarising yourself with the signs and symptoms of OPM is time well spent as the toxic caterpillar hairs cause skin rashes, eye irritation, and breathing difficulties.
Long established in West London and continually spreading into the home counties, it is on the move; in 2019 there were 60+ interceptions UK-wide on oak trees imported from Europe.
Efforts to track, trace, contain and exterminate OPM are led by the Forestry Commission and DEFRA but it is everyone’s responsibility to do their bit. Sightings should be reported via TreeAlert and no attempt should be made to touch, approach, or clear the caterpillars or their nests.
Detailed information can be found on the Forest Research website (button below) and anyone who has symptoms and suspects exposure to the hairs should seek medical advice via 111 or 999, specifying the possibility of exposure to toxic OPM hairs.
Report signs of dangerous tree pests.