Invading 'killer' moth is no danger to humans, says Kew

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's top attractions yesterday moved to reassure visitors after a potentially deadly exotic moth was found in the gardens.

Nests built by the Oak Processionary Moth - which can set off severe allergic reactions and irritate the lungs, eyes and skin, as well as stripping leaves from oak trees - have been found at the Royal Botanical Gardens in west London.

But Nigel Taylor, head of horticulture at Kew Gardens, said that there was "absolutely no danger" after existing nests were torched.

The moth, which normally lives in southern Europe but has spread northwards - possibly because of climate change - develops from caterpillars covered in hairs that contain toxins capable of causing severe irritation to humans.

While people in other parts of Europe are reported to have died from over-reaction to the hairs, Mr Taylor said that descriptions of it as a "killer moth" were exaggerated. He said that deaths from reaction to the caterpillar hairs were comparable to those from a bee sting.

A different moth, the leaf miner, has caused wide- spread damage to horse chestnut trees in the south-east of England by attacking leaves, turning them brown and shrivelled.