Mid Sussex residents warned about caterpillar that can cause rashes and damage trees

Mid Sussex District Council is warning residents to look out for a caterpillar that can cause rashes and irritations.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 11:23 am

The oak processionary moth (OPM) is a pest that can damage oak trees, said an MSDC spokesman, adding that people should not touch the caterpillars if they see them.

The statement on MSDC’s Facebook page added: “OPM caterpillars move around in the late spring and early summer in nose-to-tail processions and have long white hairs with a darker body.”

The district council is urging residents to report any sightings to the Forestry Commission to stop the spread of OPM.

The oak processionary moth (OPM) caterpillar can cause an itchy skin rash. Picture: The Forestry Commission

The Forestry Commission said OPM caterpillars live almost exclusively in oak trees and move clustered together either in trees or on the ground.

They also build white, silken webbing trails and nests, which are usually found on the trunks and branches and become discoloured quickly.

The caterpillars have thousands of tiny hairs, which contain thaumetopoein.

Touching these hairs can cause itchy skin rashes and, less commonly, sore throats, eye irritations and breathing difficulties.

The oak processionary moth (OPM) caterpillar can cause an itchy skin rash. Picture: The Forestry Commission

Click here to report OPM or find out more at forestresearch.gov.uk/opm.

The oak processionary moth (OPM) caterpillar can cause an itchy skin rash. Picture: The Forestry Commission