The Oak Processionary Moth Problem

Can Oak Processionary Moths Disturb Tree Work?

The larvae of oak processionary moths (OPM) are a hazardous pest that affect oak trees, animals and even humans. They were first identified in the UK in 2005 and known only to be prevalent in London and the surrounding areas. The government introduced a programme in 2012 to contain the moths and minimise their size, spread and impact, but emerging evidence indicates that the pests may have expanded to regions further across the UK.

Oak processionary moth larvae can cause significant damage to your oak trees and are even hazardous to human health. It’s crucial that you know how to identify OPM and who to call to control them. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about OPM and their larvae.

How to identify oak processionary moths

The moths themselves are brown in appearance with a wingspan of 25-35mm. They emerge from pupae in summer and lay eggs that hatch between March and late April. It is from these eggs that the caterpillars emerge.

The caterpillars have a grey body, dark head and are covered in distinctive white hairs. They spend most of their time in their teardrop-shaped nest, only leaving to feed on foliage. When the caterpillars leave their nest they leave a silky trail of pheromones behind them. They also construct silky white web nests on branches and trunks. They are most easily recognised by their distinctive habit of moving around in nose-to-tail processions.

The caterpillar is known to be hazardous to human and animal health. The white hairs that cover its dark body are toxic and must not be touched. Many of these hairs can be found in their nests and so these should be avoided too.

What do oak processionary moths do to trees?

The caterpillars of OPM feed on the leaves of various species of oak trees. The severe loss of foliage leaves the tree vulnerable to other pests and diseases.

How are they a threat to humans and animals?

The hairs of the caterpillars contain a protein called thaumetopoea, which can irritate the skin and sinuses of people and animals. 

Symptoms include:

  • Eye irritation
  • Itchy skin rashes
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lesions

Risk of exposure is highest in May and June. Among the groups most vulnerable to the health hazards are:

  • Curious children
  • Pets
  • People who work or spend time close to oak trees
  • Grazing livestock and wild animals

How do I get rid of them?

If you identify OPM, their larvae or the nest, do not approach them. Instead, contact a pest control specialist who understands the regulations applying to the handling of OPM-affected material. OPM is regulated as a quarantine pest and to protect the health and safety of our staff, Artemis Tree Services cannot carry out any work on trees with an OPM infestation.

A specialist will be able to employ the most suitable solution to eliminate the pests and keep you and your family safe. Possible remedies include spraying insecticide on the infested area or carefully removing the nest. Dealing with an OPM larvae infestation requires specialist equipment and training, so please do not attempt it yourself.

What should I do afterwards?

Once the OPM and larvae have been effectively eliminated, you might be left with a damaged and unattractive tree. That’s where we come in. 

Artemis Tree Services is an experienced tree surgeon who can help restore your tree back to good health. We offer various services to improve the health and appearance of your tree, including tree pruning, tree maintenance, crown reductions and more. Serving domestic customers and local authorities throughout North London, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, Artemis tree Services will be there to take care of your trees.

Contact our team today for more information.

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Everything was great from start to finish I highly recommend Artemis. From the initial quotation to the reminders and then the text on the day to say they were on their way everything was perfect. T... Everything was great from start to finish I highly recommend Artemis. From the initial quotation to the reminders and then the text on the day to say they were on their way everything was perfect. The chaps onsite were great, very polite and incredibly tidy. I am very happy with the standard of work and would definitely recommend.

2 weeks ago

Nick Woolford

From the initial contact through to the finished work, everything has gone smoothly and professionally. The estimator came when he said he would, gave us meaningful and thoughtful suggestions. His d... From the initial contact through to the finished work, everything has gone smoothly and professionally. The estimator came when he said he would, gave us meaningful and thoughtful suggestions. His detailed estimate was produced within hours of his visit. Once we had accepted the estimate we received planned date for the work. On the day the workmen arrived when we were told they would. They were extremely co-operative, helpful and informative. The work procedure without a hitch with everything being competed to a high standard, and all the refuse removed, leaving the garden neat and tidy. We will have Artemis back later in the year to prune the fruit trees.

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Anonymous

A fantastic service, at good reasonable prices with total clearace of the site upon completion. Couldn't ask for more....

1 month ago

Anonymous

Just had a tree removed in Ruislip Manor, the guys were done and dusted in just over an hour, I was expecting a mess that I'd have to clean up once they left. The guys ensured everything was spo... Just had a tree removed in Ruislip Manor, the guys were done and dusted in just over an hour, I was expecting a mess that I'd have to clean up once they left. The guys ensured everything was spotless when they left. We're all happy, but my Cat missing the tree!

1 month ago

Asarthan

Great job start to finish. All contact smooth and easy. The team listened to everything we wanted and pulled it off to perfection. Very neat and tidy too! Thank you very much!... Great job start to finish. All contact smooth and easy. The team listened to everything we wanted and pulled it off to perfection. Very neat and tidy too! Thank you very much!

2 months ago

Pete W

Another year of great service from start to finish - highly recommended...

2 months ago

Louise Leahy

Excellent service from the beginning, all lovely staff at every point and the work was carried out tidily and with consultation along the way. Very accommodating. Highly recommend and would use again.... Excellent service from the beginning, all lovely staff at every point and the work was carried out tidily and with consultation along the way. Very accommodating. Highly recommend and would use again.

2 months ago

Gordon Smith

I was impressed with your quotation service. The paperwork was excellent. The team arrived on time and carried out the job expertly and in accordance with our wishes. They were very professional and c... I was impressed with your quotation service. The paperwork was excellent. The team arrived on time and carried out the job expertly and in accordance with our wishes. They were very professional and communicated with us at all time. We were very impressed with the whole service from start to finish.

2 months ago

Pam Hawkins

Marcin & Mo arrived bang on time. We discussed the schedule of works supplied with the estimate and agreed what was to be done. They worked well as a team, and had finished 2 of the 3 trees by lu... Marcin & Mo arrived bang on time. We discussed the schedule of works supplied with the estimate and agreed what was to be done. They worked well as a team, and had finished 2 of the 3 trees by lunch time. The 3rd was completed and all the rubbish raked up, shredded and removed a few hours later. My neighbours were happy with the work as any overhang into their gardens had been removed. I would thoroughly recommend Artemis and in particular the team that did my work. The quality of the workmanship is well worth the cost.

2 months ago

John Taylor

I would definitely recommend Artemis. Very professional, courteous and efficient. They did the job with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience and cleared up carefully and thoroughly. Their reliability... I would definitely recommend Artemis. Very professional, courteous and efficient. They did the job with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience and cleared up carefully and thoroughly. Their reliability makes them well worth the fee charged.

3 months ago

Anonymous

Marcin and Charlie did a great job with the tree works - efficient and very professional!...

3 months ago

Christine Forrest

I've used Artemis for many decades. We've always found them professional, tidy, courteous, considerate and easy to have around. They might not be the cheapest, but are well worth it and I gu... I've used Artemis for many decades. We've always found them professional, tidy, courteous, considerate and easy to have around. They might not be the cheapest, but are well worth it and I guess you get what you pay for. I wouldn't use or recommend any other company.

3 months ago

Anonymous

Aston and Tom arrived on time and went through the work specified, both were polite and finished the job within a short space of time. I would recommend Artemis to anyone without hesitation.... Aston and Tom arrived on time and went through the work specified, both were polite and finished the job within a short space of time. I would recommend Artemis to anyone without hesitation.

3 months ago

M A Haffner

Very efficient and tree removal was completed on time and in budget. The site was cleaned up beautifully....

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Helen Fraser

A superb team of three pruned back our huge Tree of Heaven, in appalling weather conditions (driving icy rain) and made sure that the branches fell so as to do minimum damage to our garden or our neig... A superb team of three pruned back our huge Tree of Heaven, in appalling weather conditions (driving icy rain) and made sure that the branches fell so as to do minimum damage to our garden or our neighbours'. Very impressed by the level of skill and the cheerfulness in such adverse conditions.

4 months ago

Anonymous

Great service, happy to reccommend....

4 months ago

P Turner

Artemis were such a clean-cut, well-mannered and chirpy bunch that you might think they have turned up to host antiques roadshow on your front lawn as opposed to cutting your trees down. Simon is a su... Artemis were such a clean-cut, well-mannered and chirpy bunch that you might think they have turned up to host antiques roadshow on your front lawn as opposed to cutting your trees down. Simon is a superstar veteran of the tree world, and whilst you might not be lucky enough to get a personal appearance from him, you can be sure that everyone of his team is hand picked by him and moulded to his exacting standards. They perform their death-defying work with lighting efficiency and razor-sharp precision, they clear up and clean up and check you are happy with everything, and you’re left feeling like you stepped out of the cinema when you were a kid after watching the Superman movie. The only thing I would say is missing is a dance routine and song.

4 months ago

Anonymous

From the beginning to the end of the process, I was very pleased with the professional approach of this company. I felt confident that the work would be well carried out and was, indeed, very pleased... From the beginning to the end of the process, I was very pleased with the professional approach of this company. I felt confident that the work would be well carried out and was, indeed, very pleased with final result. I have used the company before and there is a consistently high quality serve offered. Thank you

5 months ago

Derek

Prompt, professional, polite, knowledgeable and very tidy. Marcin, Mo and Cameron make a great team....

5 months ago

Mike Fretwell

Excellent work at a reasonable price. Workers were punctual & very professional, did a great job and left the garden clean & tidy. They had all the right equipment and safety gear. This is t... Excellent work at a reasonable price. Workers were punctual & very professional, did a great job and left the garden clean & tidy. They had all the right equipment and safety gear. This is the second time we used them and i would recommend them highly. Mike Fretwell.

5 months ago