As if we needed anything other than the indecisive weather to spoil our springtime picnics, the oak processionary moths are back for a third year, damaging oak trees and spreading around their toxic hairs.
If you didn't get the memo last year, these little critters, which emerge as caterpillars from silky, writhing nests in oak trees, produce a toxin that can cause itching, rashes, conjunctivitis and sore throats. Some people may also experience asthma-like symptoms. They should be showing up in gardens near you toward the end of April. We're starting to get itchy just thinking about it.
The biggest problem area currently seems to be Richmond Park, and its tree department is on a search-and-destroy mission for the moth's larvae. Kew Gardens and the Forestry Commission are also in on the project.
If you see any of the creepy crawlies, use your common sense and just don't touch them — notify Richmond Council or call a professional to get them removed.
Photo of a swarm of oak processionary moth caterpillars taken in Romania by Haruta Ovidiu, University of Oradea, Bugwood.org.