Dangerous caterpillar pest closes in on Croydon’s oaks

There have been sightings in Banstead Woods of the oak processionary moth, the extremely destructive moth caterpillars which can strip a tree of its leaves, leaving it weakened, vulnerable, even killing once healthy oak trees.

Not to be touched: oak processionary moth’s caterpillars

The Forestry Commission has been conducting regular checks of trees in Croydon for several years, in case of its spread to the borough’s parks and woodlands – though even if it is discovered, there’s little that the authorities can do to eradicate the voracious pest beyond donning haz-chem clothing and destroying the infested trees.

Our warming climate is blamed for the advance of the oak processionary moth, which is believed to have been brought into England through imported samplings from the Netherlands.

The Royal Horticultural Society describes the oak processionary moth as “native to southern Europe that has become established in parts of London and its surrounds.

“Whilst it can defoliate oak trees the primary concern is the caterpillars’ hairs, these can cause irritation if in contact with human skin. The caterpillars should not be handled or approached.”

With the sightings in Banstead Woods, Reigate and Banstead Council is aware and has been tasked with taking action to deal with the threat.

The caterpillar’s most distinctive feature is its habit of travelling in numbers nose-to-tail in a procession (hence its name).

If you suspect that you have sighted them within the woods you should report your sighting and location to the land owner.

The various environmental volunteer groups have also been alerted and will be keeping a sharp look out. One volunteer said today, “Please be vigilant while still continuing to enjoy the woodland.”


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This entry was posted in Croydon parks, Environment, Friends of Farthing Downs, Friends of Lloyd Park, Wildlife and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Dangerous caterpillar pest closes in on Croydon’s oaks

  1. Good warning. Our tree man spotted this on our big oak at St Barnabas, Purley. They did the haz-mat suit thing, but the ‘treatment’ was to spray the ‘nest’ with hair spray and then remove for burning. It has to be reported to the Forestry Commission. I’m concerned that there may be a Tony Newman connection as he’s looking a bit moth-eaten

  2. Ian Ross says:

    If the developers don’t get them the caterpillars will??

  3. henderti says:

    Many councils in Holland are encouraging local communities to put up nesting boxes and plant areas close to oaks with wild flower borders. Birds and parasitic wasps and flies predate on the harmful caterpillars of the oak processionary moth.

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