Residents reassured following oak processionary moth outbreak

Published Friday, 26 June 2020

Bromley residents are being advised to be vigilant after the discovery of oak processionary moth caterpillars on Tugmutton Common.

As well as causing damage to oak trees, the caterpillars of this moth can pose a risk to human and animal health. Residents in the local area are therefore being reassured that action is already being taken to remove the nests and are being asked to report any sightings elsewhere. Bromley Council’s tree team will be liaising with the Forestry Commission following confirmation of the outbreak and a 500-metre monitoring zone is being set up around the main affected woodland on Tugmutton Common, also known as Farnborough Recreation Ground.

Residents are strongly advised not to touch the caterpillars or interfere with the nests as the microscopic hairs from the caterpillars contain a toxin that are known to cause itchy skin rashes, itchy eyes and a sore throat. If individuals suspect that they have been exposed to the caterpillar’s hairs and have these symptoms they should contact their GP or NHS Direct, advising them of the potential contact they have had.

Animals such as dogs can also be affected by the caterpillar’s hairs and dog walkers are advised to be vigilant when exercising their dogs in woodland settings and not to let curious dogs investigate the caterpillars or their nests, which can sometimes fall to the ground.

Councillor William Huntington-Thresher, Executive Councillor for Environment and Community Services said, “We are taking action on Tugmutton Common to remove the caterpillars and nest and will be monitoring the situation locally to this area.  It is important that dog walkers in particular, through to youngsters messing around having fun in general, remain extremely vigilant as this pest represents a potentially extremely serious health issue for anybody who comes into contact with it.  It is not only a health hazard to humans but also threatens loved pets as the hairs of the caterpillars are toxic and so should not be touched under any circumstances.  Please report concerns if you come across them.”

As the name suggests, the oak processionary moths are predominantly found on oak trees. Where a case is confirmed specialist contractors are required to remove the caterpillars. Residents are strongly advised not touch or try to dispose of the insects themselves. Specialist contractors must be used in every case.

Any sightings should be reported to the Forestry Commission via TreeAlert. Alternatively, people can email opm@forestrycommission.gov.uk or call 0300 067 4442.  If caterpillars are spotted on street trees in Bromley borough, or on Bromley Council owned woodland or green spaces, this should also be reported to Bromley Council’s tree team www.bromley.gov.uk/trees.

For free and useful information on identifying oak processionary moth caterpillars please visit  https://www.observatree.org.uk/resources/download-and-read/guides/ and select the guide on oak processionary moth.

ENDS

For media enquiries, please contact Andrew Rogers, Communications Executive, on 020 8461 7670 or email andrew.rogers@bromley.gov.uk