MVDC have been notified by the Forestry Commission that we have had the first siting of Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) on our land in Ashtead (Ashtead Recreation Ground). You may well be aware, but the caterpillars of the moth can affect the health of oak trees, people and animals. The threat to trees is that in large populations they can strip the foliage which leaves the tree vulnerable to other threats. The threat to people and animals is caused by a substance in the hairs of the caterpillar which can cause skin and eye irritations, sore throats and breathing difficulties on close contact. Currently OPM is known to only be present in London and some neighbouring counties. It is subject to a programme of control which is government led.
The Forestry Commission will spray the affected tree twice between the 1st April and the 30th June 2018. After that, if the tree is still affected then it will be our responsibility to control OPM. This will involve:
• Manual removal and disposal of OPM nests by 15 August 2018
• Further spraying of the trees that are within 50 metres of the infested tree(s) on MVDC owned land in April – June 2019.
If OPM is still present after the Forestry Commission has sprayed (between April and June 2018), we will be commissioning Forestry Commission approved contractors to deal with this in the recommended manner, as we have little choice but to follow the FC’s policy of containment and eradication. We will be actively monitoring our trees in the District, as it is very likely that OPM will spread.
It is also worth highlighting that the method of control and eradication is not universally approved of. There have been a number of concerns raised about the toxicity issues associated with other insects by using these controls. Whilst I understand and recognise this, my view is that we need to treat this in line with the Forestry Commission advice in the first instance.
There is a useful link from the Forestry Commission on OPM below.