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Toxic caterpillars are overrunning London

James Manning

Entomophobes, look away. The Forestry Commission, which mostly deals with foresty things in places far away from London, has warned that the capital is facing an outbreak of toxic hairy caterpillars: the larval stage of the oak processionary moth.

Known as the (notorious) OPM, this hairy beastie has been spotted all over the south-east, but particularly in west and south-west London. Richmond and Kingston in particular are crawling with them, but the OPM has made it as far north as Harrow and Haringey and all the way out to Bromley and Redbridge in the east.

The caterpillars live almost exclusively on oak trees, hence the name. If you see one, you could take a photo and use the Forestry Commission’s Tree Alert site to shop it to the authorities. But keep your distance: OPMs are covered in 62,000 long, white, ejectible hairs that can cause nasty allergic reactions including rashes and vomiting. We’re all for rewilding London, but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

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