Vigilance urged ahead of oak processionary moth season

by | May 30, 2024 | Latest, News, Pests and diseases

The Forestry Commission is urging people to remain vigilant as the oak processionary moth (OPM) hatching season begins.

The oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea) is commonly found in South East England and poses a significant threat to both tree and human health.

Distinguishable by their black heads and grey, furry bodies, the caterpillars of the moth are typically found through spring and summer until the end of July, colonising on the trunks or thick branches of oak trees.

Feeding on the leaves of several species of oak, the caterpillars strip the trees of foliage, compromise their growth rate and leave them vulnerable to further disease.

The species also pose a threat to humans and animals, their hair can use itchy rashes, sore eyes and throats, and can potentially lead to difficulty breathing.

The Forestry Commission is advising people to avoid touching the caterpillars or their nests due to the health risks.

Last year the species was found to have spread all the way to Derbyshire, over 150 miles outside of the known London established area.

Both the public and industry are urged to report sightings via the TreeAlert portal or via email to opm@forestrycommission.gov.uk.