As if an impending early-July visit by a strikingly unpopular U.S. president will not be enough to unsettle city residents, now London is facing an invasion of toxic caterpillars.
The London borough of Bexley issued a warning earlier this month for residents to look out for oak processionary moths (Thaumetopoea processionea) after their young were spotted emerging from eggs high up on trees throughout the borough. "At worst, you can die", said Jason J. Dombroskie, manager of the Cornell University Insect Collection, as cited by the New York Times.
The toxins contained in the hairs on the body of the caterpillar, make the person dizziness, fever, irritation of eyes and throat and skin rashes and asthma attacks. "You can go into anaphylactic shock and have your airways close up".
Each OPM caterpillar has about 62,000 hairs which can be ejected and then remain active on the ground for up to five years.
The larvae of the OPM (known academically as Thaumetopoea processionea) were first identified as beginning to emerge from egg clusters in mid-April, and trees containing the clusters were treated on April 23, as reported by a Forestry Commission statement.
The commission will be treating trees until about mid-June, but it's still important to be wary.
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Originating from southern Europe, these toxic caterpillars are not native to England but were accidentally brought in on imported oak plants in 2005.
So far, the caterpillar has not reached the United States.
Poisonous caterpillars live on oak branches or under trees, but not on fences, walls or other structures.
The officials have discovered toxic Caterpillar in the parks, gardens and countryside. It also tends to kill the oak trees that they thrive on.
At that point, the caterpillars will be easiest to spot when they're marching in a distinguished "nose-to-tail" formation, as their name (oak processionary moth) suggests.