Toxic Caterpillars Overrun London


Photo Courtesy by

Numerous oak processionary moths (OPM) have overrun London, causing people to get multiple illnesses such as rashes, vomiting, and asthma attacks, according to

Even though these caterpillars are native in the United Kingdom, they have been found in large numbers at this time of year, according to

The caterpillars have long, white hair on their body and have gray skin, according to

British Forestry officials say that these caterpillars might have accidentally come to the United Kingdom from Dutch trees imported for a housing development in Kew, South West London, according to

These larvae are toxic because the hairs on them contain thaumetopoein, an irritating protein, and once released as a defense mechanism can cause sickness. If touched by people or animals, the caterpillar will release the hairs, sending them into the flesh, according to

A caterpillar contains 62,000 hairs which can eject if it is threatened, according to

“At best, you can get contact dermatitis( a skin condition in which the skin becomes red, swollen, and sore causing irritation and itchiness). At worst, you can die.You can go into anaphylactic shock and have your airways close up. The airborne hairs set up a whole different ball game,”  stated Jason Dombroskie, an entomologist at Cornell University, according to

Residents have been warned to avoid contact with the caterpillars. Multiple gardeners have come into contact with them and have devised a solution on how to get rid of the infestation in their backyards. Gardeners have had to burn their lawns, according to

To avoid health risks, officials from the British Forestry Commision have asked people to do the following:

  • Stay away from nests or caterpillars

  • Do not let children touch or approach nests or caterpillars

  • Do not let animals touch or approach nests or caterpillars; or try removing nests or caterpillars yourself.

Readers interested in learning more can visit