Caterpillar plague on Isle of Wight was caused by climate change, says expert

Global warming was blamed yesterday for an increase in caterpillar infestations which can cause severe allergic reactions.

In the latest outbreak, residents of a street in Newport, Isle of Wight, were forced to stay indoors or wear protective body-suits and face-masks to avoid coming into contact with tiny hairs shed by the brown-tail moth caterpillars.

The insects have set up home in an isolated and overgrown plot next to gardens in the street.

Steve Gardner, who has been dealing with the infestation in West Street, said: "In general, these insects are getting worse in this country because the climate is changing and the summers are getting warmer. Normally, these insects settle in fields where they do not do anyone any harm but if they are close to houses they travel from garden to garden causing problems. As the caterpillar grows it sheds its skin and the tiny hairs float in the air and can cause a severe skin reaction."

The insect, which has a dotted white line down each side and two very distinctive red dots on the back of its tail, emerges from its nest as the weather gets warmer in May and June. The easiest time to get rid of them is during winter when their tent-like nests are visible. Mr Gardner said he would return in the autumn to remove the nests. Residents have been told to use calamine lotion or contact a doctor if they develop a rash.