Nature Ramble

England this week; and a toxic pest that is invading the country.

The oak processionary moth.

Thaumetopoea processionea

.

On the march: The oak processionary moth – which is toxic during its caterpillar stage – is spreading out of control in England

Toxic: The caterpillar is covered with bristles that can be blown in clouds in the wind causing serious irritation to eyes, lungs and skin

Source: Daily Mail

Oak trees at risk as caterpillar peril spreads in south of England

Caterpillar of oak processionary moth, which devastates oaks and causes skin rashes, has taken hold in London

Oak processionary moth caterpillars feeding on oak leaves. Photograph: Alamy

Tree experts are urging the public to help stop the spread of a moth that devastates oak trees and whose caterpillars cause rashes on people who touch them.

The oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea) has taken hold across several south London boroughs and one site in Berkshire, after arriving in the UK on oaks imported from continental Europe to south-west London in 2006. Its caterpillars, which have been emerging from eggs since late April, not only strip whole oaks bare of leaves in large numbers, but have microscopic hairs which can be blown on the wind and are toxic to people and pets, resulting in rashes that cause serious irritation.

The Forestry Commission says it is no longer possible to eradicate the species in south-west London, where it is found in Richmond Park, Kew Gardens, and public parks. But plant health scientists hope sightings reported by the public can help avoid the species becoming so widespread in England that the fate facing the country’s ash trees from a deadly fungus – which the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has admitted cannot be stopped, only slowed – is not repeated with the oak.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. yikes- they look kinda cool but looks can be deceiving.

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  2. The UK trees seem under siege from everywhere.

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    Reply

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