The UK’s oak trees face an increasing threat from imported pests and diseases. Over recent decades, a newly-arrived pest called OPM has posed risks to the health of our oak population, as well as impacting the health and wellbeing of humans and animals.
OPM was first identified in the UK in 2005 and has established itself as a growing threat, spreading out from the London area. The caterpillars build nests on oak trees and eat oak leaves and in large numbers could extensively damage the trees, leaving them vulnerable to other stresses such as pests and diseases.
Unfortunately, Fullwell’s impressive number of Oaks have not been spared this recent adversary.
WHAT ARE WE DOING?
The club is actively managing the problem through manual removal and spraying but since the problem cannot be eradicated, some simple steps can be taken by players to reduce their exposure.
The caterpillars are covered in tiny, barbed hairs which can be blown about by the wind and may cause skin irritation, rashes and itching and eye and throat complaints. Occasionally, contact with OPM can cause breathing difficulties in people and animals but most cases are not serious.
Please see the informational posters around the club for guidance on identifying the caterpillars and their nests
Avoid direct contact with the caterpillars and their nests. Whilst playing golf, consult any Local Rules in place at the time and/or use the Rules of Golf for relief from situations where exposure is likely.
Consider wearing long-sleeved tops and long trousers OPM caterpillars are known to be active – the hairs start to develop on the caterpillars from Mid to late May and the caterpillars are active until July.
WHAT TO DO IF EXPOSED
If you or someone in your care has a serious allergic reaction, seek medical help. For less severe reactions, a pharmacist can provide advice on relief from skin or eye irritations.
If contact is knowingly made with the hairs:
1. Gently remove the caterpillar using a pen or similar long thin object, disturbing the caterpillar as little as possible to reduce the risk of more setae being released
2. Clear the skin: use soap and water to wash loose setae off the skin; strip the skin with sticky tape, rubber cement or facial peel solution
3. Do not touch dry
4. Remove clothes and launder them
5. Remove any constricting jewellery, in case of swelling
6. Once exposure has been removed, dermal symptoms usually disappear within two weeks if there is no further exposure
There are no specific treatments for exposure to caterpillar setae and no therapeutic trials for symptoms related to caterpillar exposures.
The majority of people who are exposed experience no health effects and of those who do, the most common effects are self-limiting dermal symptoms which can be treated with over-the-counter remedies.
The latest NHS advice is that calamine lotion or other creams may be used to relieve the itch and corticosteroid cream has also been used where the itching has been severe and/or prolonged.
However, do consult the advice as published by the NHS, Forestry Commission or other official Government sources.