Oak Processionary Moth - Update May 2020

OPM is a non-native species of moth that was first introduced into the UK (Kew, West London) in 2006.

Despite the active management of this pest by the Forestry Commission and various landowners, at the current time OPM has become established in most of Greater London and in some surrounding counties.

What are they? 

The caterpillars of OPM are pests of Oak trees and provide a hazard to human and animal health. Developing tiny hairs which contain an irritating protein called thaumetopoein, contact with the hairs can cause itching skin rashes, eye irritations and in some cases, can result in sore throats and breathing difficulties.  

What do we do to manage them?

To help manage OPM on Wimbledon and Putney Commons, between April and August WPCC staff and specialist contractors carry out a number of different tasks which are designed to locate and remove OPM from various parts of the Commons.

The first part of our annual OPM management programme involves spraying a small number of selected areas on the Commons with a recognised pesticide called Bacillus thuringiensis.

This work is carried out by specialist contractors and was completed during the last week of April and the first week of May 2020.

At the current time, OPM caterpillars are in the early stages of development and caterpillars will be visible on the Commons’ Oak Trees until late June.

The next stage of our OPM management programme will be to remove caterpillars and subsequently the silken nests which they create on the trunk and branches of trees from late June until early August.

Unfortunately, removal of all OPM nests on the Commons is not possible but WPCC staff will endeavour to remove all OPM nests that are found at a height below 2 metres from the ground or where nests are found overhanging footpaths or benches.

What can you do?

If you see any OPM caterpillars or nests on the Commons please ensure that you avoid them and keep your children and dogs at a safe distance.   We strongly advise against allowing children to climb in Oak trees at this time of year.

If you find any nests that are either close to the ground or overhanging footpaths or benches please email peter@wpcc.org.uk