Just as we exit one pandemic, we seem to be entering another. The oak processionary moths have begun their invasion.

This risk to people and animals these moths pose originates in tiny hairs that develop on the older caterpillars. These hairs contain proteins which irritate the eyes and skin, as well as potentially causing a sore throat and difficulty breathing in people and animals. According to the ‘Forest Research’ association, ‘the risk of exposure to these hairs is highest in May and June’.

The OPM first arrived in the UK in 2005 as a result of plant trading. Being a native species of Southern Europe, it quickly started to spread through London (where it was contained for some years) before moving swiftly on to the rest of the country. The situation has been monitored by organisations such as the ‘Forestry commission’ during this time and treated using pheromone trapping.

Official guidance suggests the best way to approach this threat is following the mantra ‘spot it, avoid it, report it’. This means that everyone should learn how to:

  • recognise OPM nests and caterpillars
  • protect themselves and the people and animals in their care from the health hazards
  • report any findings of oak processionary moths

(as per the guidance available on the Forest Research Association website)