icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm

London infested with toxic caterpillar that causes skin rashes & breathing problems

London infested with toxic caterpillar that causes skin rashes & breathing problems
London's urban environment might not seem like the ideal home for nature's critters. However, a toxic caterpillar has moved into the British capital, and it's capable of causing skin rashes, eye irritation, and breathing issues.

Caterpillars of the oak processionary moth (OPM) were seen emerging from eggs in southeast England in mid-April, according to the UK's Forestry Commission. The biggest infestations have been spotted in the Greater London area.

The caterpillars have 62,000 hairs, each of which contains the protein thaumetopoein. That protein can cause skin rashes, sore throat, breathing difficulties, and eye problems.

Symptoms can appear if humans or animals touch the caterpillars or their nests, or if their hairs are blown into contact by the wind. Even coming close to the nests is dangerous, the Forestry Commission warns.

"The caterpillars can also shed the hairs as a defense mechanism, and lots of hairs are left in the nests, which is why nests should not be touched without protective clothing," the Forestry Commission wrote in a statement.

Trees in the area were treated with a biopesticide on April 23. The treatment is expected to continue until late May or early June. After that point, the caterpillars will be too large to be affected by its "preferred treatment product."

In July, the caterpillars will congregate in their nests to pupate into adult moths, a process which can take up to one month. Adult OPMs will emerge from the pupae in mid to late summer. They live for an average of just three days, during which time they mate and lay their eggs in healthy oak trees, continuing the cycle.

The Forestry Commission has urged residents not to approach the caterpillars or their nests, or to let animals do so. They have been asked to report any sightings of the critters or their nests.

Like this story? Share it with a friend!

Dear readers and commenters,

We have implemented a new engine for our comment section. We hope the transition goes smoothly for all of you. Unfortunately, the comments made before the change have been lost due to a technical problem. We are working on restoring them, and hoping to see you fill up the comment section with new ones. You should still be able to log in to comment using your social-media profiles, but if you signed up under an RT profile before, you are invited to create a new profile with the new commenting system.

Sorry for the inconvenience, and looking forward to your future comments,

RT Team.