Super-sized slugs and toxic caterpillars set to hit Sussex

Oak Processionary Caterpillars. Photo courtesy of the Forestry Commission. SUS-160405-093907001

Oak Processionary Caterpillars. Photo courtesy of the Forestry Commission. SUS-160405-093907001

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Super-sized slugs and toxic caterpillars could hit Sussex this spring, wildlife experts have warned.

The Forestry Commission is asking people to be on the look out for the oak processionary moth after a number of nests were found in the south east of England.

A oak processionary moth nest. Photo courtesy of the Forestry Commission. SUS-160405-093919001

A oak processionary moth nest. Photo courtesy of the Forestry Commission. SUS-160405-093919001

The bug, which was accidentally introduced to the UK in 2005, poses a health risk to humans in its caterpillar stage as its toxic hairs can trigger asthma attacks, fevers and rashes.

The Forestery Commission warns anyone who comes across a nest (pictured) not to touch it and to report it immediately to opm@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

Meanwhile an unusually mild winter means gardeners can expect to see more slugs as they will have been eating and reproducing at a much faster rate as a result.

Matt Shardlow, CEO of the wildlife group Buglife, said, “Due to climate shifts, warmer winters and wetter summers, we’re seeing slugs become active all year round, whereas key predators like amphibians will only lay their eggs once a year. Slugs are not so restricted.

The Green Cellar Slug SUS-160405-085413001

The Green Cellar Slug SUS-160405-085413001

“Coupled with the fact that general slug varieties are also reaching full size earlier than ever, gardeners are simply not getting any respite and need innovative management solutions.”

The gardening group Wyevale Garden Centres is also warning gardeners to expect to see more slugs than in previous years and warns that they are expected to grow larger than in previous years.

Duncan McLean, of Wyevale Garden Centres, said, “Thanks to another unseasonably wet and mild winter with few hard frosts, our slugs simply haven’t hibernated as they usually do.

“They’re grazing constantly on prematurely budding plants, getting larger and larger in the process – up to 40 times their body weight – whilst also having the time to breed more, adding to existing colonies and spelling disaster for our gardens.”

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