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Dangerous caterpillars found in Welham Green

People advised to avoid the children’s play area


The oak tree cordoned off along with a warning sign Image by North Mymms News released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The oak tree cordoned off along with a warning sign
Image by North Mymms News released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

Caterpillars of the oak processionary moth (OPM) have been identified in an oak tree in Welham Green.

The caterpillars can be a hazard to the health of oak trees and can also be dangerous to humans and animals causing rashes along with eye and throat irritation.

Warning signs posted and oak tree cordoned off


Warning sign on the entrance gate to the play area Image by North Mymms News released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
Warning sign on the entrance gate to the play area
Image by North Mymms News released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

The warning sign put out by NMPC Image by North Mymms News released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0
The warning sign circulated by North Mymms Parish Council
Image by North Mymms News released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0

A poster produced by the Forestry Commission and circulated by North Mymms Parish Council (NMPC) urges local residents to report any other sightings of the caterpillars.

The OPM caterpillars are in the oak tree by the seesaw in the Welham Green play area off Dellsome Lane (Grid Ref: TL 22892 05564).

According to a parish council spokesperson the Forestry Commission attended the site yesterday (Wednesday 12 June) and confirmed the find.

The spokesperson said that an officer from Hertfordshire County Council’s Countryside and Rights of Way team visited the site on Tuesday and has been assisting with support and guidance in liaison with the Royal Parks and Forestry Commission.
“We have been advised that we should cordon off an area of a metre around the affected tree trunk to reduce risk. Only one nest was identified in the affected tree and all other trees on our land in Welham Green have also been inspected and found to be free of this pest at the current time. Our grounds staff are closely monitoring this issue.”
People are advised to avoid the area until further notice.

Danger to human health


The oak processionary moth
Image by Luc Hoogensteireleased under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 

According to the Forestry Commission the tiny hairs on the caterpillars of the OPM can be blown by the wind and if they come in contact with the skin they can cause itchy skin rashes, eye and throat irritations and, occasionally, breathing difficulties in people and animals.

The caterpillars eat oak leaves, and large numbers can strip whole trees bare, leaving them vulnerable to other threats.

The Forestry Commission says it’s working with local authorities and landowners to try to  control the threat and has put out a leaflet (embedded below) describing how to identify the caterpillar, what to do when you spot them, and how to report the findings.

The commission has a Tree Alert site for posting sightings of the OPM. The government has also appealed for members of the public to report any sightings.



Last year Forest Research put out a pamphlet warning of the thread of the OPM.



Health information


If you think you have been affected by coming into contact with one of the caterpillars information is available from NHS Choices.




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