To ensure parks and open spaces across Hertsmere remain a haven for residents, work to tackle Oak Processionary Moths (OPM) is due to start in April.
The moth was first reported in three council owned sites across the borough in May 2020. Since then, the council have surveyed over 1,350 Oak trees across Hertsmere’s parks and open spaces.
This survey has shown that 48 trees across 16 Hertsmere Borough Council sites have Oak Processionary Moth nests.
Between April and June council contractors will chemically spray OPM infected trees, in accordance with the Forestry Commission’s Statutory Plant Health Notices.
Councillor Seamus Quilty, Portfolio Holder for Environment, said: “Since the Oak Processionary Moth was first sighted in Hertsmere, our officers have surveyed a large percentage of our Oak trees to determine the level of infestation and ensure the safety of park users.
“We have a legal obligation to carry out the chemical spraying of infected trees but will work hard to ensure this is carried out with minimal disruption to park users.”
The Oak Processionary Moth caterpillar and their nest can cause itchy rashes, eye irritations and, in severe cases, breathing difficulties in people and pets.
During July 2020 contractors, wearing protective clothing, removed, and safely disposed of nests and caterpillars across parks.
Cllr Quilty, added: “We have taken the first step by removing the nests and are following that up with chemical spraying to try to control and limit the problem in Hertsmere.
“We installed signs in infected parks to warn park users of the risks of the Oak Processionary Moth. Our advice remains ‘spot it, avoid it, report it’.”
People can use the Forestry Commission’s online reporting system ‘Tree Alert’ to identify and report the Oak Processionary Moth.
The greatest risk period is May to July when the caterpillars emerge and feed before pupating into adult moths, but nests, even old ones, should not be touched at any time.
The nests are typically dome or teardrop-shaped, ranging in size – from a ping-pong ball to as large as a rucksack.
They are white when fresh, but soon become discoloured and brown.
The caterpillars have black heads and bodies covered in long white hairs and are easily recognised by a distinctive habit of crawling in large groups, nose-to-tail forming long lines on or around oak trees.
If you see any Oak Processionary nests or caterpillars in a council park you should report them immediately on 020 8207 2277 or email: email@example.com
If they are on a privately owned oak tree, report them to the Forestry Commission using the Tree Alert online pest reporting form.
If you cannot use Tree Alert, you may report them by telephone on 030 0067 442 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Oak Processionary Moth, including distribution maps and detailed guidance on treatment click here.
Picture credit Shutterstock