HAILSHAM: Pest controllers handle catepillar invasion

brown tail moth caterpillars

brown tail moth caterpillars

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AN INVASION of allergy-inducing caterpillars has been repelled from homes on a Hailsham estate.

Residents living in the Town Farm Estate found themselves struggling to cope with some unwelcome summer guests – brown tail moth caterpillars.

After receiving a number of complaints of caterpillars entering homes and, in some cases, causing unpleasant allergic reactions. Wealden District Council appointed Rentokill to tackle the problem.

Savvas Othon, technical director at Rentokil said, “While Town Farm Estate has historically experienced caterpillar infestations, this year the problem was particularly acute as the unseasonably warm weather in spring has led to higher caterpillar populations.

“When the council appointed us, we could see how frustrated the residents were with the infestation.

“Brown tail moths are a problem across the South-East coast, as they feed off vegetation such as brambles found in these locations.”

As well as bushes and trees, the caterpillars could be found on buildings across the estate, making ‘tents’ beneath window frames.

Caterpillars hibernate within the tents during the autumn and winter months, emerging from them in the spring.

The location of the tents meant that residents were scared to open their windows because they were worried the caterpillars would crawl into flats.

Rentokil said as well as the inconvenience caused, the infestation needed to be dealt with quickly due to potential health risks; the caterpillars’ arrow hairs break off easily, causing allergic reactions which include skin rashes, headaches and sometimes, breathing difficulties.

Wealden Housing Services Manager Chris Stephens said, “The location of the nests on buildings adjacent to windows, the inconvenience of our residents having to keep windows shut in hot weather and the potential health risks meant the timing really was of the essence when it came to treating the caterpillars.

“Rentokil’s solution also appealed to us as it is non-toxic, therefore wouldn’t impact our residents in any way. “We’re delighted with how quickly the infestation was cleared, and that our residents no longer have to be concerned by the constant inconvenience the caterpillars caused.”

A spokeswoman for Rentokil said in most cases, caterpillar infestations are dealt with via a traditional ‘cut and burn’ method which involves cutting out the caterpillar tents from trees and bushes, and disposing them in a garden incinerator.

But this techniques wasn’t appropriate here because of the location of the tents and the Rentokil staff wanted to avoid handling the caterpillars and coming into contact with the hairs.

So, they instead used a non-toxic solution to bind the caterpillar hairs, making them safe to be collected by an industrial vacuum cleaner, with minimal disruption to residents.

This was the first time the treatment had been it has been used in this country and within five days, residents were enjoying a caterpillar-free environment.