Where am I likely to find OPM caterpillars?
OPM caterpillars have either been found in, or are likely to be found in, the following areas. They may also have made their way to other parts of the country however, so do keep an eye out for them on dog walks.
London: Brent, Bromley, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Hillingdon, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston Upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, City of London, Merton, Newham, Richmond Upon Thames, Slough, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Waltham Forest, and City of Westminster
Berkshire: Bracknell Forest, Pangbourne, West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead
Buckinghamshire: South Buckinghamshire
Surrey: Elmbridge, Epsom and Ewell, Guildford, Mole Valley, Runnymede, Spelthorne and Woking
What happens if I touch an OPM caterpillar?
People can develop rashes and sore, itchy or irritated eyes and throat, and breathing difficulties from exposure to OPM caterpillars.
Experts strongly advise people not to go near or touch caterpillars or their nest because of the health risk from their fine hairs.
If you need to remove a caterpillar from your cat’s coat, we suggest wearing rubber gloves or using a thick wad of tissues to create a barrier between your skin and the caterpillars’ hairs.
The effects of OPM contact on people, although unpleasant, are not usually medically serious and pass in a few days. People who have been affected should consult a pharmacist for relief from the symptoms, or a doctor for serious allergic reactions, although these are rare.
Spotted an oak processionary moth caterpillar?
Oak processionary caterpillars are not native to the UK and were accidentally imported from mainland Europe for tree planting schemes a few years ago.
You can report any sightings of OPM caterpillars to the Forestry Commission to help them minimise the effects on oak trees caused by these caterpillars. http://www.forestry.gov.uk/opm
Images and photos: Supplied by Forestry Commission - Ralph Parks and H Kuppen