Hairy caterpillars (Oak processionary moth)

What does it look like?

The caterpillars walk up and down trees in nose-to-tail processions.

If you find them, or spot one of their white silken nests, report it to the Forestry Commission or to your local council.

Why is it dangerous?

The caterpillars of the oak processionary moth are a real pest. They were first found in the UK in 2006 and are now in London and parts of southeast England.

In late spring and summer, the caterpillars have thousands of tiny hairs that can cause itchy rashes, eye problems and sore throats – and very occasionally breathing difficulties.

If you see a caterpillar on your skin and try to brush it off, it will release harmful hairs as a defence mechanism.

How can I avoid it?

Do not touch any caterpillars! You can enjoy watching them safely, without disturbing them.

What to do if it stings me?

If a caterpillar of the oak processionary moth gets on your skin:

  • Use tweezers or a pen to remove it.
  • Try not to disturb it (for example, by brushing it with your hands) as it will then release more hairs.
  • Rinse your skin with running water, allow it to air dry and then use sticky tape to strip off any leftover hairs.
  • DO NOT towel yourself dry after rinsing.
  • Use calamine lotion, ice packs or a pharmacy remedy containing 3.5% ammonia to relieve the itch.
  • DO NOT use cream containing antihistamine.
  • Remove all contaminated clothes and wash at the highest temperature the fabric allows.

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