Toxic Moth Larvae Came to UK in Imported Oak Beams

The Forestry Commission warned walkers, ramblers and anyone involved in wood conservation in the south-east London area this week that there has been an infestation of toxic moths in Bromley.

The oak processionary moth, which is not native to the UK, can be dangerous to both human and animal health, and infestations have been discovered in woodland and individual oak trees in the West Wickham area of Bromley. These new disoveries are located some nine miles from an established outbreak of oak processionary moths in west London – leading Forestry Commission officials to believe that this is a totally separate case.

The moths’ caterpillars are believed to have come to the UK from continental Europe in imported oak beams used for oak carpentry, and have spiny hairs that are poisonous – capable of causing severe itching to the skin and eyes, plus sore throats in humans and pets. They are also dangerous for the oak trees themselves, eating the leaves and leaving the trees denuded, vulnerable to disease and other threats.

The Forestry Commission’s south-east England regional director Alison Field said: “We are working with Bromley Council and others involved to eradicate the outbreak as quickly as possible.”

She warned anyone with an infested oak tree not to try and remove the caterpillar nests themselves as these can be rife with toxic hairs.