Health warnings about poisonous hairy caterpillars that can cause rashes and asthma attacks after 255 people got sick last year
- The caterpillars, which feed on oak trees, were first seen in London
- They travel at a slow pace of two miles per year
It is said that an “army” of poisonous caterpillars is on the march and will pose a serious threat to human health.
In 2022, up to 255 people fell ill after encountering the insects, up from 56 in 2021.
The bugs – which arrived 17 years ago in a shipment of trees from the Netherlands – have as many as 60,000 hairs.
Contact with the creatures can cause skin rashes and asthma attacks, in addition to eye and throat irritation, vomiting and fever.
The caterpillars, which feed on oak trees, were first seen in London and have spread across the country.
They travel at a slow pace of two miles a year and are expected to reach Birmingham in ten years.
Contact with the creatures can cause skin rashes and asthma attacks, in addition to eye and throat irritation, vomiting and fever
Andrew Hoppit of the Forestry Commission said: ‘They pose a threat to human and animal health. Curious animals like those that are most vulnerable.’
In addition to the human risk, the creatures also threaten our 121 million oak trees.
The caterpillars emerge between March and July, before turning into moths.
The nests — which are white and the size of a tennis ball — must be reported to the Forestry Convention when spotted.