Specialists are currently spraying trees across Bexley which are infested with an invasive species of caterpillar which contain a strong irritant, making them a "hazard to human and animal health."

Oak Processionary Moths (OPM) was discovered in London for the first time in 2006, but was found on trees in several of Bexley's highways and parks in 2018, and has since spread to Bromley and Greenwich.

The adult moths are harmless, but the caterpillars and their nests contain a hairs which act as a strong irritant, causing itchy rashes, eyes and throat irritations.

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The caterpillars can also occasionally cause more severe breathing issues and eye problems in people and in pets, so a government programme run by The Forestry Commission aims to limit their spread each year.

Last week, Bexley Council began spraying trees in Danson Park to limit to combat OPM, and will soon spread out to tackle cases elsewhere in the borough.

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The first treatment started in late April, and will take 2-4 weeks, with the expert spraying teams completing two phases of treatment.

Everyone is reminded, particularly those in London and surrounding counties, to report (using TreeAlert) sightings of OPM caterpillars, which could be damaging oak trees in their area.

Craig Harrison, the Forestry Commission’s South-East England Director, said: "Green spaces with trees are proving particularly valuable for visitors of woodlands, who are exercising whilst practicing social distancing this spring.

"Controlling OPM will help protect oak tree health and ensure continued enjoyment of parks and woodland by reducing the impact of OPM caterpillars to human health."

Both people and animals can be affected by touching the caterpillars, their nests, or if windblown hairs make contact with the skin.

Bexley Council says that workers are working 12-hour shifts Monday to Saturday, with signs put up around areas where they're working, and specialists will be employed to remove any nests found after the spray has taken place.

The caterpillars primarily live and feed on Oak leaves, but they can also be found on the ground around infected trees.

The greatest risk period is between May and July, but the hairs from the caterpillar can be present on old nests, and could be blown or touched at any time of year.

The council advises people to consult your pharmacist, GP, NHS Direct or vet respectively if you or your animal are exposed and suffer an allergic reaction to the hairs of this caterpillar.