Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

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Oak Processionary Moth Programme Update 1

Author:  Forestry Commission
Last Updated:  09/04/2020

9 April 2020

Welcome to the first Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) programme update for 2020.

Programme updates will be published regularly throughout the OPM season, covering key stages such as caterpillar emergence, as well as information on progress and surveillance. Feel free to forward this update to anyone who may be interested.

Forestry Commission operational update: COVID-19

In light of Coronavirus, Defra and the Forestry Commission have considered if work should go ahead to manage OPM during these challenging times. Colleagues have carried out a review of critical functions and concluded that the control of OPM should continue. All OPM work will take place in line with government measures on Coronavirus (www.gov.uk/coronavirus). As is always the case when carrying out control operations, the contractors will be wearing personal protective equipment to protect themselves against the tree pest and insecticide whilst working on the trees. In the majority of cases, works will be carried out without any need for face-to-face contact between the landowner and the contractor. Furthermore, as per latest government measures on Coronavirus, all contractors will be following guidelines on social distancing in the workplace. We are constantly reviewing official guidance in relation to the Coronavirus outbreak and if this situation changes, plans may have to be adjusted.

OPM update

The weather has been a lot milder this winter; soon there will be signs of oak trees breaking bud and with that, reports of OPM.

OPM caterpillars were first spotted emerging from their egg plaques in London on the 6th of April – slightly later than in 2019. A big thank you to the Royal Parks for monitoring egg hatch.

Spraying Sites

The OPM team is working hard preparing for the 2020 programme. Part of this process is to issue Statutory Plant Health Notices; over 1200 notices are due to be sent in the next two weeks (mainly via email). These notices set out what needs to be done. Control will most likely start during the third week of April (depending on when oak leaves emerge) and will continue through most of May.

You will see from the map below that there is no boundary change to the current core zone for 2020. Our contractors (Advanced Tree Services & Bartlett Tree Experts) have received their work orders and will be prioritising control in the periphery of OPM populations initially (red dots closest to the green dotted line on the map below) before moving into London. Your cooperation with the control programme is much appreciated.

Given the very challenging circumstances at these times, we will have to take a pragmatic approach to OPM works this year. It might not be possible to arrange safe access to a site, and we will be working closely with landowners to identify these sites and adapt plans as required.

OPM Infestation Map 2019

OPM Surveillance

We intend to undertake a visual survey for OPM starting in June. This survey will be based in areas where we have limited knowledge of OPM. Last year there were a number of interceptions of OPM across Britain, and this year we will continue to monitor these sites through visual surveying and pheromone trapping.

We still encourage you to report all OPM sightings to us via the online portal Tree Alert www.forestresearch.gov.uk/treealert. Alternatively you can send in your reports to opm@forestrycommission.gov.uk.

OPM Resources

We would like to use this as an opportunity to encourage you to familiarise yourself with the information on our webpages at www.forestresearch.gov.uk/opm. These are updated frequently, and are our main source of information about OPM. They include an OPM Manual with guidance on all aspects of OPM management. There is also printable material including leaflets and posters that can be used for education/awareness found under ‘Further information resources’ at the very bottom of the OPM landing page.

As in previous years, if your oak trees are in the core zone you are responsible for monitoring your trees for OPM and taking action where appropriate. The Arboriculture Association has provided a position statement on working on trees in light of coronavirus based on government guidance:

Arboricultural Association Updated Business Guidance

Please help us to help you

Help us provide comprehensive, up-to-date OPM reports outside of Defra/FC work by sending information on your OPM activity to opm@forestrycommission.gov.uk.

And finally…

Thank you in advance to everyone who will be contributing time, skills and resources to this year’s programme. OPM can only be tackled with strong partnership working therefore your contributions are always greatly appreciated.

Andrew Hoppit, OPM Project Manager, Forestry Commission
Telephone: 0300 067 4442