London, Surrey and other parts of South East England are currently being plagued by an outbreak of the toxic larvae of oak processionary moths. It was reported that contact with the hairy caterpillar can cause severe allergic reactions, including irritation to eyes and throats, and skin rashes.
The pest was introduced to the UK by accident. It is suspected they came in on young oak trees imported from continental Europe around 2005. The caterpillars eat oak leaves in large numbers. They can strip trees bare making them vulnerable to other threats. The species got its name because they build their white silken nests in the trees and they walk in a nose to tail procession from the nest to the top of the tree to feed.