The caterpillars of the oak processionary moth can affect the health of people and animals (and oak trees). A protein in the caterpillars’ tiny hairs can cause skin and eye irritations, sore throats and breathing difficulties in people and animals who come into contact with them.
This invasive species has been identified at sites in Epsom & Ewell in the last couple of years.
The caterpillars can shed the hairs as a defence mechanism, and lots of hairs are left in the nests, which is why nests should not be touched without protective clothing.
touch or approach nests or caterpillars
let children touch or approach nests or caterpillars
let animals touch or approach nests or caterpillars
try removing nests or caterpillars yourself.
You should see a pharmacist for relief from skin or eye irritations after suspected OPM contact or call NHS111 or see a doctor if you think you or someone in your care has had a serious allergic reaction. You should consult a vet if you think your pet has been seriously affected.
OPM is a native of southern Europe, where predators and environmental factors usually keep its numbers in check and minimise its impact. OPM was first accidentally introduced to Britain in 2005, almost certainly as eggs which had been laid on live oak plants imported from continental Europe.