Oak Processionary Moth or OPM has been discovered in Hampshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire. The Plant Health Service have announced an urgent review of import controls on large oak trees, but is it too little too late?
I last wrote about OPM in July 2012, and warned then:
“Ignoring OPM is not an option – its spread is a disaster already happening – soon impacting our gardens, parks and forests across England unless action is taken urgently. “Gabriel Hemery, July 2012 Article
OPM is already an established pest in areas of London, while the rest of the country is designated as a Protected Zone. Swift action is being taken by the Plant Health Service to eradicate recent findings of OPM in Hampshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire, including surveillance, tracing work and destruction of both the caterpillars and infested trees. The Plant Health Service has announced an urgent review of import controls on large oak trees (girth more than 8cm at 1.2m above the root collar).
If you suspect OPM, you should not attempt to destroy or move infected material yourself as the nests and caterpillars can pose some risks to human health. For more on how to identify OPM, visit https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/opm.
About Oak Processionary Moth
OPM caterpillars feed on oak leaves and can increase trees’ vulnerability to attack by other pests and diseases, making them less able to withstand adverse weather conditions such as drought and floods. These new cases highlight the need for continued vigilance from industry and government to protect the UK’s trees, coming soon after research which indicated that ash dieback may cost Britain many times more than the foot and mouth disease (read more).
The caterpillars can cause serious damage to trees by defoliating entire canopies but this is a minor problem in comparison to their effect on human health. The caterpillars of the third to sixth instars have poisonous hairs or setae that carry a toxin that can cause serious irritation to the skin, eyes, nose and throat of humans and other animals. If inhaled they can cause respiratory distress, asthma and even anaphylactic shock.
- Larger oaks are defined here as those with a girth >8cm at 1.2m above the root collar.
- To report sightings of pests and diseases, use the TreeAlert online portal: https://treealert.forestresearch.gov.uk/
- The Plant Health Service is made up of Defra, Animal and Plant Health Agency and the Forestry Commission.
- For more on OPM, visit: https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/pest-and-disease-resources/oak-processionary-moth-thaumetopoea-processionea/
- For guidance on importing trees and plants to England and Wales from the EU visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/importing-trees-and-plants-to-england-and-wales-from-the-eu
- To find out more about plant health Protected Zones visit: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/resources/plant-health-protected-zones/
- To find out how the government will work with others to protect England’s tree population from pest and disease threats, see the Tree Health Resilience Strategy: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tree-health-resilience-strategy-2018.
- The Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) is part of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and implements and enforces plant health policy in England, and in Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government. For more information on plant health controls, visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/plant-health-controls