Toxic caterpillar outbreak in London and surrounding areas | Care UK

You are here

Toxic caterpillar outbreak in London and surrounding areas

May 8 2018

Toxic caterpillars that cause asthma attacks, vomiting and rashes are taking over London and have been spotted in the surrounding areas.

The Oak processionary moth (OPM) has thousands of toxic hairs over its body which it can eject. These hairs contain an irritating substance called thaumetopoein which, if come into contact with, can cause fevers, eye irritation, skin rashes, trigger asthma attacks and vomiting. The toxicity of the hairs can stay active for up to five years after being ejected from the caterpillar.

Infestations of OPMs were recorded in Greater London but have been spotted in the surrounding areas as far as Bracknell Forest, Brent and Guildford.

You can recognise OPMs by their long white hairs, distinctive habit of moving in nose-to-tail processions, often forming arrow-headed processions with one leader and more following in rows behind, and are mostly seen in late spring to early summer. One thing to note is that you will not find them living on fences, walls or similar structures as some other harmless caterpillar species do.

The caterpillars are most likely to be found in and around oak trees and are often clustered together as they feast on oak leaves. Under no circumstances should you, a child or an animal touch these caterpillars or their nests, and any attempt to remove the species should be done by a professional pest control expert.

If you do come into contact with the caterpillars, speak to your local pharmacist for relief from skin or eye irritations, or call NHS 111 if you think you or someone you are caring for have had a severe allergic reaction. If your pets have been seriously affected, speak to your vet.

Latest news

Our news

Hat-trick heaven as Care UK sweeps the board at the Care Home Heroes Awards

Hat-trick heaven as Care UK sweeps the board at the Care Home Heroes Awards

May 23 2018

Members of Care UK teams in three of its care homes have walked away with all three category wins in the Care Home Heroes Awards, run by the popular professional publication Caring Times.

Read more >

Brownies spark new friendship with Snowdrop House residents

Brownies spark new friendship with Snowdrop House residents

May 22 2018

Residents at Snowdrop House were joined by a local Brownie group for the first of a series of meet-ups at the home. 

Read more >

Local woman names town’s newest care home

Local woman names town’s newest care home

May 22 2018

A local lady has won a competition to name a brand new care home in Witney.

Read more >

Health news

Smile please – it’s National Smile Month!

Smile please – it’s National Smile Month!

May 17 2018

Mid-May to mid-June is National Smile Month, and it is a great opportunity to remind people that their oral health is very much their own responsibility, and th

Read more >

Read more news >