oak moth

How To Get Rid Of Oak Processionary Moth

The oak processionary moth damages oak trees and causes allergic reactions in humans. We show how it can successfully get rid of and removed.

Actually, it looks very cute how the fluffy brown caterpillars of the oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea L.) run one behind the other in a long row to absorb the leaves of our oaks – you almost want to stroke the towering stinging hairs gently. Unfortunately, the softly-haired larva of the oak processionary moth is a pest to be taken seriously, which can also harm people and animals with its allergy-causing stinging hairs. You can find everything about rash caused by the oak processionary moth here.

Here you can find out how to recognize caterpillars and moths of the oak processionary moth (also abbreviated to “EPS”) and how to prevent them. You will also find all information on the development, distribution, and harmful effects of the spinner caterpillars. For the sake of your health, it is better to leave the control to a specialist.

Distribution and food of the oak processionary moth

The warmth-loving oak processionary moth has been on the advance in Germany since around 1990. Its development is favored by climate change. All types of oak and, in exceptional cases, other deciduous trees, for example, hornbeam, beech, birch, or Robinia, are attacked by it. The pest occurs preferentially in light, warm forests with a high proportion of oaks and on the sunny southern edges of these forests. Individual trees in parks are also gladly accepted.

Federal states most affected by the oak processionary moth:

  • Berlin
  • Brandenburg
  • Saxony-Anhalt
  • Baden-Wuerttemberg
  • North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Bavaria

Fighting Oak Processionary Moth: How To Get Rid Of It Successfully

Recognize oak processionary moths

To recognize an infestation at an early stage, it is important to be able to reliably identify the butterfly. The larvae of the oak processionary moth are nocturnal. On their back, there is a broad and dark backline with fields covered with velvety hair. From the third larval stage, long stinging hairs are formed. From the fifth larval stage onwards, the caterpillars create large webs of caterpillar silk, which serve as protection and a nest for pupation. The behavior of the caterpillars gives it its name: the sociable animals often move one after the other as if in single file as if they wanted to form a solemn procession.

The adult moths have a wingspan of about 3 to 3.6 centimeters and are hairy everywhere. However, your hair is not composed of stinging hair, so it is harmless. While the wings of the males show two clearly visible horizontal stripes, the stripes are less pronounced or nonexistent. The moths are also nocturnal, so they are relatively seldom encountered.

Harmful effects of the oak processionary moth

As a rule, an infestation with the oak processionary moth is very easy to cope with for a healthy tree. Even after they have been completely devastated, the affected oaks will sprout again well in the following year. However, repeated infestation over several years is problematic. Basically, the weakening due to various abiotic (e.g. drought, heat, lack of water, frost) as well as biotic (oak powdery mildew, oak splendor beetle, gypsy moth) factors leads to a relevant loss of vitality, so that in the forest, plant protection with food poisons has to be carried out in some cases to prevent entire populations from dying off to preserve. But especially in public green spaces, the spinner represents a risk to our health, because the stinging hairs can trigger strong reactions in the skin and the respiratory tract. Here you can read all about how to avoid a rash or other symptoms.

Fighting Oak Processionary Moth: How To Get Rid Of It Successfully

Development of the oak processionary moth

Following this paragraph, you will find a table showing the development of the oak processionary moth. The female moths lay their eggs, about one millimeter in size, between the end of July and the beginning of September in the upper crown area of oaks. A clutch can consist of 100 to 200 eggs and is arranged in the form of an elongated plate and carefully camouflaged.

At the beginning of the vegetation period, the eggs hatch into the first larval stage, which is still yellowish-brown in color. This eats the leaves of the oak and eats the entire leaf – only the central rib is spurned by the caterpillars. Depending on the weather, the first larvae of the third stage of development can be present from April. From this stage on, they have the typical stinging hairs, which are equipped with barbs and a nettle poison. Pupation takes place in June or July. After three to six weeks as a pupa, the adult butterfly hatches to produce the next generation.

Prevent oak processionary moths

Preventive plant protection treatment of oaks and other deciduous trees is judged not to be sensible by the Federal Environment Agency. In the case of particularly endangered trees, however, you should carry out repeated checks to be able to react in good time if an infestation occurs. Because chemical control measures, for example, can only be used in the first and second stages of development. Such treatment is no longer possible by mid-May at the latest. In general, the promotion of natural opponents leads to a certain reduction in the severity of the infestation. However, an effective decimation of the warmth-loving oak processionary moth is only possible through longer periods of cold.

When is there a high risk of infestation for oak processionary moths?

  • Oaks stand in a monoculture or an open landscape and with little undergrowth on other plants
  • There was an infestation in previous years
  • Nearby deciduous trees were infested in the previous year
  • Mild winters and warm summers favor the development

Fighting Oak Processionary Moth: How To Get Rid Of It Successfully

Fight oak processionary moths

Fighting the oak processionary moth is difficult for various reasons. On the one hand, the butterfly prefers to attack trees that are already tall and these can hardly be treated with conventional spraying equipment. Second, getting close to a group of oak processionary moths is a very bad idea. Therefore, never try to remove the animal yourself! If you are forced to stay near an infested tree, please note the following information.

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Notes on staying near an infested tree:

  • All skin areas must be protected as well as possible by clothing
  • Do not touch caterpillars and webs
  • Wash clothes after contact at 60 ° C; Thoroughly shower hair and body

If problems arise in your private garden due to the presence of oak processionary moths, you actually only have two options: Either you avoid the infested area to avoid contact with the stinging hair – this is recommended by the Federal Environment Agency. Or you can have the caterpillars controlled by a specialist company that specializes in pest control.

The oak processionary moth can be fought very well with biological means – Bacillus thuringiensis – preparations such as borer-free XenTari® are also used by specialist companies. For you as a private user, however, the product has not yet been approved for the oak processionary moth. Vacuuming and scraping are also common methods that are used. Burning or felling the infected plants carries the risk of stinging hairs spreading even further, whereby these methods are ruled out.

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Does the oak processionary moth have to be registered?

At this point, we would like to point out that there is no obligation to register for the oak processionary moth. However, you can and should voluntarily report an infestation in the private and public areas to the responsible public order office or green space office. There you may receive further tips and, if necessary, remedial measures will be initiated.

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