Oak Processionary Moth News

Is OPM a genuine threat to the UK?

There’s a blog on the BBC Gardeners World website where people have written in response to a journalist’s story about how lovely and relatively harmless the oak processionary moth is! Many of the responses were sent from those who have had first-hand experience of the pest abroad. Here are just a few...

“We live in France and these processionary caterpillars (oak and pine varieties) are a real issue for people with children and pets. Inadvertent contact with the caterpillar itself or their nests results in very painful skin irritation and can cause serious breathing difficulties if inhaled. The hairs which contain the chemical responsible are shed several times during the nesting stages and are active for years so don’t touch old abandoned nests”.

“My friend had a small dog die last year from these ‘pretty things’. Sorry to say, if I see them I lop off the branch and burn them”.

“Just seen this blog and I know these caterpillars as I live in Spain – BEWARE! If a dog should sniff one, it is usually fatal or causes immense pain, dogs that try to bite them will bite their own tongues off with the pain, puppies are naturally inquisitive and have to be kept indoors or muzzled when the caterpillars parade. They are blind, and the hairs are triggered by a light sensitive patch, so actual contact is not necessary” .

And finally.....

“They say that the toxic hairs from these caterpillars infect the fruit and veg in our gardens and we are not to eat them. So what about the food crops farmers grow if they are close by to an infestation? I presume that they would become inedible also, therefore causing food shortages, damaging livelihoods and the economy. With London expecting a large influx of people next year for the Olympics it would be wise not to ignore this problem. Our NHS is stretched to the limit as it is, without having to treat unknown numbers of people that may suffer the effects of this poisonous caterpillar, because of the inability of the authorised bodies to decide and put in place a plan of action. On a final note, WHY are native trees of this country being imported? Do we not have good tree growers in Britain! I suspect this decision was down to money again, not common sense. Save a few pounds by importing, then spend millions trying to eradicate the pest and diseases that come with them. I always thought that there were very strict regulations in place to prevent plants entering the country that would cause these problems”.

Our Pet Eggs Have Hatched

During his visit to the UK to attend the OPM Information Seminar, Henry Kuppen mentioned the importance of knowing when the eggs emerge. To facilitate this Gristwood & Toms collected two egg plaques. These have been kept secure within the outbreak zone, and monitored on a daily basis. The caterpillars emerged on 1st April. Henry has confirmed that eggs in Munich, Germany, hatched on March 31st and in the Netherlands shortly afterwards: a week earlier that Henry had anticipated .

The emergence date is significantly earlier this year, and depending on the weather of the coming weeks this could bring the treatment window forward by 10-14 days.

OPM Eggs Hatch OPM Eggs Hatch

  OPM Eggs Hatch - 1st April 2011

OPM Spraying Machine is coming to England

Gristwood & Toms are working to get an OPM electro-static spraying machine imported to the UK, on loan from Holland. It is hoped that they will take delivery by the end of April. “The approved spraying solution in the UK (DiPel) is slightly different to the one used in Holland so we need to establish whether it will work successfully using their machines” confirms UK expert, Mark Townsend. Their machines are faster so they can treat more trees at crucial times and are equally as effective as any method we currently use here. “If the experiment works” continues Mark “we’ll look to engineer scaled down versions of the machine so they are versatile and able to access small areas. Being trailer mounted would mean that we could get them to sites quickly and carry out effective spraying whenever OPM is detected”.

Gristwood and Toms Hold OPM Information Seminar

Gristwood & Toms hosted an all day seminar at their head office in Hertfordshire on 3rd March 2010. Main speakers were Henry Kuppen, Holland’s leading authority on OPM, Mark Townsend and Alex Austin.

The seminar was attended by Tree and Environmental Officers from around the country including senior representatives from the London Tree Officers Association and several members of the press. Attendees learnt about the spread of OPM, its implications, containment efforts, new spraying developments and how it has already become a major health issue in countries like France and Holland.

Full briefing notes from the seminar are available in Adobe format for download.

Click here to download briefing notes (20mb)

OPM Discovered in UK - 2006

The Oak Processionary Moth has been discovered in Richmond in the UK, and on a second site at Hanger Lane near A40.

This moth poses serious Environmental Heath issues.

Watch this space for more news items...