Watch Out For Oak Tree Pest

Alert for walkers on Putney & Wimbledon Commons

The "recent hot weather has made life easier for the pest known as the oak processionary moth. Quite a few oak trees on Putney Lower Common and Wimbledon Common are now affected" says Peter Haldane Wildlife and Conservation Officer for the Commons.

The moth’s caterpillars not only harm trees by eating their leaves but can cause health problems in people and animals. The caterpillars have thousands of tiny hairs containing an irritating substance called thaumetopoein which when touched may cause an itchy skin rash, breathing difficulties, eye problems and sometimes a sore throat.

The caterpillars build white silken webbing nests in oak trees. Survey teams working on behalf of the Forestry Commission have surveyed oak trees across Wimbledon and Putney Commons to see which ones are affected. Nests are then removed.
*A large orange painted ring indicates an infected tree and all those affected have also been marked with white tape.
*An orange dot marks the outer limit of a 50 metres survey zone.

tree infected by the moth close up

If you see a tree which you think is infected but which doesn’t have any orange markings please inform the ranger’s office on Wimbledon Common 020 8788 7655 so that the nest can be removed. Click link for Peter Haldane’s July 2014 wildlife report from the Commons.

Mary-Claire Mason

August 15, 2014