Oak Processionary Moth

There’s a new pest on the block, increasing in numbers, defoliating trees and posing a serious threat to human health.

The larvae (caterpillars) of the Oak Processionary Moth (Thaumetopoea processionea) or OPM predominantly feed on oak tree leaves, but also hornbeam, hazel, beech, chestnut and birch.

Although the leaf damage can be severe, OPM caterpillars pose a serious risk to human health. The caterpillars are covered in bristle-like hairs containing a chemical toxin. Human contact with the hairs can provoke allergic reactions manifested as skin rashes, conjunctivitis and respiratory problems such as pharyngitis and asthma. Health problems can occur even if the larvae are not handled as the hairs break off readily and are dispersed in air currents.

Abandoned caterpillar nests contain shed caterpillar skins, pupal cases and vast numbers of detached hairs and should be treated with extreme caution.

Eggs are laid in august and they hatch into caterpillars between April to July feeding on the leaves and at their most dangerous. They are small and coloured black with a white underside and long white hairs all down their body.

The likelihood of human contact is increased as Oak Processionary caterpillars are most abundant on urban trees, along forest edges and in amenity woodlands.

Moth populations are well established and increasing in northern Europe due to climate change. Oak Processionary Moth is established in London and has been detected as far north as Sheffield.

So what is the solution?

How to control Oak Processionary Moth

The biological insecticides Dipel DF & Bruco contain insecticidal crystal toxins derived from a naturally occurring soil bacteria. These are highly effective at controlling caterpillars. Dipel DF is approved for use in 190 different crop types including vegetables, fruit, forestry, and amenity situations.

Apply Dipel DF or Bruco to the caterpillar stage between April and end of May for best results. It is non toxic, biodegradable and safe to other insects, fish, animals and humans and permissible in organic situations. Once a caterpillar has ingested Dipel DF it stops feeding in minutes and kills OPM caterpillars within 24-72 hours.

A 0.5 kg pack is sufficient to treat 6,666m2 (1.66 acres).

For a spray control in latter stages of caterpillar growth try a Deltamethrin based insecticide: Bandu

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