Our parks and open spaces are a haven for residents during the coronavirus lockdown but we're urging residents to be vigilant against a pest found in Oak trees.
The Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) has been found in Bushey Hall Golf Club, the Meadow Park area in Borehamwood, Parkfield in Potters Bar and a private woodland in Ridge.
Residents are advised to avoid all contact with the caterpillar and their nest as it can cause itchy rashes, eye irritations and, in severe cases, breathing difficulties in people and pets.
Councillor Seamus Quilty, Portfolio Holder for Environment, said: ”During the lockdown period and warm weather our green spaces have been a welcome retreat for residents to spend time outside. Unfortunately, Oak Processionary Moths have been sighted in a few Hertsmere parks, so our message is to be vigilant, especially with young children who may be exploring trees this summer.
"Our parks team is working to control the spread of the Oak Processionary Moth and will be putting up safety notices in those parks
affected to warn the public. If you discover an OPM nest or caterpillar, we ask that you 'spot it, avoid it, report it'."
People can use the Forestry Commission’s online reporting system ‘Tree Alert’ (www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/tree-alert/
) to identify and report the Oak Processionary Moth.
The greatest risk period is May to July when the caterpillars emerge and feed before pupating into adult moths, but nests, even old ones, should not be touched at any time.
The nests are typically dome or teardrop-shaped, ranging in size – from a ping pong ball to as large as a rucksack. They are white when fresh, but soon become discoloured and brown. The caterpillars have black heads and bodies covered in long white hairs and are easily recognised by a distinctive habit of crawling in large groups, nose-to-tail forming long lines on or around oak trees.
Cllr Quilty, added: “Officers have found infestations on a few council sites across the borough, which we are dealing with in the correct manner to minimise harm to the public.
“We are conducting a survey of all our high use locations within the borough to establish the current spread alongside a strategy to remove existing infestations. This will not involve removing any infected Oak trees on council land.”
If you see any oak processionary nests or caterpillars (OPM) in a council park you should report them immediately on 020 8207 2277 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If they are on a privately owned oak tree, report them to the Forestry Commission using the Tree Alert online pest reporting form. If you cannot use Tree Alert, you may report them by telephone on 030 0067 442 or by email at email@example.com
For more information on the Oak Processionary Moth, including distribution maps and more detailed guidance on treatment visit: www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/pest-and-disease-resources/oak-processionary-moth-thaumetopoea-processionea/
Posted on Monday 1st June 2020