Caterpillars' toxic hairs can cause ‘health concerns’

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ISLANDERS have been warned about a potential health hazard caused by the toxic hairs of a caterpillar that builds nests in oak trees.

Oak processionary moth caterpillars have been found at St Andrew’s Park in St Helier, as well as in a private garden and other locations in the area.

Contact with the hairs of the caterpillar, which can be blown by the wind after being shed, can cause skin irritation, allergic reaction, intense itchiness, painful rashes, eye problems, a sore throat and breathing difficulties.

Caroline Maffia, of Environmental Health, said the caterpillars could be spotted clustered together in oak trees.

She added: ‘They have a grey body and dark head, and the older caterpillars have a central dark stripe with paler lines down each side. The nests look like cream, brown or black fibrous webbing on the trunks, branches and forks of trees.

‘Islanders should avoid handling them, standing downwind of them, or too close to infested trees. The hairs can cause a number of health concerns, and if you’re worried about a rash or other reaction, then please contact your GP.’

The problem can also affect animals, and dog-owners have been advised to keep their pets away from affected trees.

Ms Maffia said colleagues from the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Department were working to remove as many of the nests as possible.

Sightings can be reported by email to environmentenquiries@gov.je giving the location of the nest and the date and time it was seen.

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