Toxic caterpillars with fine hairs that can cause severe irritation to people and animals have been spotted in Bracknell.

The Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) caterpillars have been found on an oak tree near Clintons Hill in Bracknell, Berkshire.

Oak Processionary Moth nests around base of oak tree.

The caterpillars contain tiny hairs that can cause eye and skin irritation, breathing difficulties and sore throats in those who come into contact with them.

They can also affect the health of oak trees, stripping trees bare, leaving them weakened and vulnerable to other threats.

The first recorded outbreak of the moth was found in West London in 2006 and since then it has steadily spread to nearby boroughs.

Bracknell Forest Council has cordoned off the area where the nest has been spotted and has put up posters advising people to not approach the site.

The Forestry Commission has advised the public to protect themselves by knowing how to recognise the OPM caterpillars and keeping pets and children away from them.

Andrew Hunter, the council’s chief officer for planning transport and countryside, said “We take the safety of our residents very seriously and would advise people not to disturb or handle the nests or moths as they can cause severe irritation to the skin.

“We are now collaborating with the Forestry Commission in order to support their long standing work to control the spread of this moth and minimise the risk to the public as they continue to enjoy our parks, gardens and woodland.”

The public is asked not to attempt to remove the caterpillars and their nests, and instead report sightings to The Forestry Commission.

You can do that using The Forestry Commission’s Tree Alert reporting form at forestry.gov.uk/opm; e-mail it to [email protected]; or call 0300 067 4442.