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Plague of toxic brown tail moth caterpillars descend on Portland

An infestation of brown tail moth caterpillars have been found in Portland, UK. They are covered in hairs that can be toxic and some residents are being plagued with rashes and breathing difficulties. They are generally found in southern England and Wales and usually hatch in May and June of every year. Some Islanders are saying this year’s infestation is the worst in recent memory. The former mayor of Portland, Sandy West, described being in agony with blisters as well as suffering asthma attacks. “It’s been like caterpillar Olympics in our garden”, she said. “My husband was brushing them from the house, which caused them to shoot off hairs, which is what happens when they are threatened. I developed a rash from my hairline to my chest, as if I’d been burnt.” She added: “The caterpillars have got everyone talking on Portland. People have been sharing advice – once again it shows the strong community we have, and it’s got people interested in nature.”

Other residents of the island have said they have come out in itchy, red, bumpy rashes and they cannot get rid of the caterpillars. One resident said “It’s like something from a nightmare. They fall on us when we open the front door. I had to cancel my son’s hospital appointment because they fall into his pram when I try leaving the house.”

Dorset Council are trying to combat the issue with very targeted spraying of webs where brown tailed moth caterpillars are congregating in mornings and evenings – this is in the hope they can reduce the numbers in the area. Usually they would not recommend apply pesticides to areas of vegetation, however, in instances of these kind of infestations there isn’t much else that can be done. In order to help prevent future infestations a programme of scrub management has been put into place reduce suitable areas for the brown tail caterpillar to thrive.

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