Scots to watch out for poisonous caterpillars which cause sickness and rashes

Scots have been urged to keep an eye out for poisonous caterpillars that can cause severe vomiting and rashes.

The Forestry Commission has asked the public to report sightings of the oak processionary moth (OPM) caterpillars.

Oak processionary moth, which is a tree pest, was first identified in London in 2006 and has since spread to some surrounding counties – and you don’t even need to touch one to get sick.

They pose a hazard to humans, pets and livestock and have 63,000 hairs.

The caterpillars and their nests contain hairs which can cause itchy rashes, eye and throat irritations, and should not be touched under any circumstances.

The greatest risk period is May to July when the caterpillars emerge and feed before turning into adult moths.

Those hairs contain a toxin called thamentopoein, which can cause blotchy, red skin rashes and asthma attacks, as well as eye and throat irritation, dizziness, vomiting and fever.

The greatest risk period is May to July when the caterpillars emerge and feed before turning into adult moths.

The pest is established in London and surrounding areas although most of Britain has Pest Free Area status, meaning the pest is not known to be present in much of England.

The Forestry Commission runs an annual programme in place to tackle OPM, and works with partners to monitor, treat and research the pest, in order to slow the spread and reduce the intensity of the pest.

Andy Hall, Forestry Commission Operations Manager, said: “At this time of year, many people are enjoying green spaces and it’s really important for the public to be aware of the risk of tree pests like oak processionary moth and to report any sightings via our TreeAlert website or by contacting the Forestry Commission.

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“This will help us with our programme of treatment and enables us to slow the spread of this pest. Any sightings should be reported to the Forestry Commission via its Tree Alert online portal. Alternatively, people can email opm@forestrycommission.gov.uk or call 0300 067 4442.”


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