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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Paul

I thought the Artemis team were absolutely brilliant. From coming to quote , prompt , and cutting back 2 oak trees they did a highly Professional and excellent job.... I thought the Artemis team were absolutely brilliant. From coming to quote , prompt , and cutting back 2 oak trees they did a highly Professional and excellent job.

2 days ago

Jill, Pinner

Efficient, thorough. Listened to what we wanted and carried out expertly. All v neat and tidy. Good job all round....

1 week ago

J M

Thank you Artemis for your excellent tree surgery work as part of ongoing maintenance over many years. The garden poses problems, but as ever the team were cheerful, efficient and everything was carri... Thank you Artemis for your excellent tree surgery work as part of ongoing maintenance over many years. The garden poses problems, but as ever the team were cheerful, efficient and everything was carried out exactly as planned. I shall continue to recommend Artemis.

2 weeks ago

Green hill housing

we have had work done with them and they do a wonderful job, from start to finish everything was perfect again, not a leaf leaf left behind, workmen were polite and professional.... we have had work done with them and they do a wonderful job, from start to finish everything was perfect again, not a leaf leaf left behind, workmen were polite and professional.

2 weeks ago

Jan

Artemis took down two lime trees who's roots had damaged the garage floor and were an inch away from the foundations of the house . The trees were in a very awkward place to get to but this didn't see... Artemis took down two lime trees who's roots had damaged the garage floor and were an inch away from the foundations of the house . The trees were in a very awkward place to get to but this didn't seem to trouble this highly competent team. The team were extremely well equipped , and they worked together like a well oiled machine. We were delighted with their work, tidiness and very pleasant manner. And it was at a fair price.

1 month ago

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Excellent value, great work on a terrible day...good lads!...

1 month ago

Diana Stuckey

Excellent service with experienced people who did an excellent job of pruning my tree. Would definitely use them again....

2 months ago

Jonathan

Martin and Luke arrived on time They were polite and did the job to my total satisfaction and cleared up Took the time they said it would when they arrived Well done!... Martin and Luke arrived on time They were polite and did the job to my total satisfaction and cleared up Took the time they said it would when they arrived Well done!

2 months ago

Phil

Very professional job. The man in charge was excellent. Did the job exactly as we wanted it. Would highly recommend....

3 months ago

Anonymous

I have used Artemis a number of times and always feel confident that they offer an excellent service all the way through from the first visit to the final clearing up. They are knowledgeable, profess... I have used Artemis a number of times and always feel confident that they offer an excellent service all the way through from the first visit to the final clearing up. They are knowledgeable, professional and friendly. They do great job and I would highly recommend.

3 months ago

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Friendly staff. Work carried out efficiently. Left the area clean and tidy. Would definitely recommend Artemis....

3 months ago

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Artemis are very efficient, knowledgeable, professional and easy to deal with....

4 months ago

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This was the first time we have used Artemis, and the whole process from initial enquiry through to completion was very easy. We would definitely recommend their services, and will be using them again... This was the first time we have used Artemis, and the whole process from initial enquiry through to completion was very easy. We would definitely recommend their services, and will be using them again I'm sure.

4 months ago

Natasha

Fantastic service from your team at Artemis. We needed a tree in our garden heavily crowned, having let it grow far too tall. We couldn’t be happier with the work done; the team were so professional, ... Fantastic service from your team at Artemis. We needed a tree in our garden heavily crowned, having let it grow far too tall. We couldn’t be happier with the work done; the team were so professional, really lovely and left our garden tidier than it was before they arrived. We won’t hesitate to recommend Artemis to anyone needing tree work done

5 months ago

Anonymous

Excellent service from first quote to final job. Very good communications and reminders so I knew exactly when they were arriving. Polite and hard working team who cleared up perfectly. Would definite... Excellent service from first quote to final job. Very good communications and reminders so I knew exactly when they were arriving. Polite and hard working team who cleared up perfectly. Would definitely recommend.

5 months ago

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5 months ago

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Anonymous

Excellent service. Punctual and extremely professional manner in which they carry out their work. Really happy with the work done . Would definitely use the company again.... Excellent service. Punctual and extremely professional manner in which they carry out their work. Really happy with the work done . Would definitely use the company again.

5 months ago

Terry

We have been using Artemis Tree Services for many years now and have just had our annual tree and shrub maintenance visit. Wonderful job as usual. The garden now looks great thanks to a very hard work... We have been using Artemis Tree Services for many years now and have just had our annual tree and shrub maintenance visit. Wonderful job as usual. The garden now looks great thanks to a very hard working and knowledgable team. Thanks again, see you next year.

6 months ago

Anonymous

Excellent service from start to finish. Clear quotes, no jargon, prompt responses to queries and arrived on time. A large tree was expertly removed and recycled. The very professional and pleasant tea... Excellent service from start to finish. Clear quotes, no jargon, prompt responses to queries and arrived on time. A large tree was expertly removed and recycled. The very professional and pleasant team even removed the leaves from the lawn. Thoroughly recommend! Very reasonable pricing also. No hidden extras.

6 months ago

David Lynn

The team arrived on time, carried out all the requested work and left our garden neat and tidy. The tree work was as planned , we are very pleased and would recommend the company with no hesitation.... The team arrived on time, carried out all the requested work and left our garden neat and tidy. The tree work was as planned , we are very pleased and would recommend the company with no hesitation.

7 months ago