Oak Processionary Moth

Oak Processionary Moth

Oak processionary moth nest (c) Forestry Commission

The oak processionary is a non-native moth whose caterpillars feed on oak leaves, causing significant damage. The caterpillars can also pose a risk to human health causing skin irritation and asthma.

Oak processionary moth (OPM) has been found in London and the south of Hertfordshire. Below you'll find information on what to do if you find OPM. 

Threat to trees

OPM is a tree pest because its caterpillars feed on the leaves of several species of oak trees. Large populations can strip whole oak trees bare, leaving them more vulnerable to other pests and diseases, and to other stresses, such as drought. 

Threat to people and animals

Older caterpillars develop tiny hairs containing an urticating, or irritating, protein called thaumetopoein. Contact with the hairs can cause itching skin rashes (pictured below) and eye irritations, sore throats, breathing difficulties and, rarely, allergic reactions in people and animals. The risk of exposure to these hairs is highest in May and June. 

The caterpillars can shed the hairs when threatened or disturbed. The hairs can be blown by the wind, and they accumulate in the caterpillars’ nests, which can fall to the ground. They can stick to trunks, branches, grass and clothing.

Report a sighting

If you see an OPM nest or caterpillar, please do not touch or approach it. If the sighting is on one of our nature reserves, please report the sighting to the Trust:

T: 01727 858 901
E: info@hmwt.org

If you see an OPM nest or caterpillar outside one of our reserves, please report it to the Forestry Commission.

OPM gallery

Find out more

You can find out more information on OPM on the Forestry Commission website.