TOXIC caterpillar nests which can cause nasty skin rashes are still being found in trees in the borough. Croydon Council is warning residents not to touch the nests, which contain the caterpillar hairs which cause the rashes and eye and throat irritations in people and animals. The nests in question belong to the oak processionary caterpillar, which makes its home in oak trees, especially during June. Councillor Timothy Godfrey, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said: "Council teams have been out with Forestry Commission officers removing nests as they're reported, but people should remain vigilant, particularly around Shirley and Ashburton, where the nests have been seen in the past." The tree pest can strip oak trees bare of leaves in large numbers and in June builds distinctive white, silken webbing nests and trails on the trunks and branches of oaks. Ian Gambles, of the Forestry Commission, said: "We advise people against trying to remove the nests themselves, even if they own the oak tree. To be as effective and safe as possible, this job needs to be timed just right and done by people with the right training and equipment, and the nests must be disposed of properly." People are also advised to see a pharmacist for relief from milder skin or eye irritations. Any sightings should be reported to the Forestry Commission or the Council on 020 8726 6200.
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