Caterpillar alert for bathers

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A section of beach at Bembridge, Isle of Wight, was cordoned off after three beachgoers needed hospital treatment for rashes caused by barbed brown-tail moth caterpillars. Insecticide spraying of a half-acre area of sea buckthorn bushes where the moths have been breeding was postponed until English Heritage could investigate the beach, a designated area of special scientific interest.

Ecology officer for the council, Dr Colin Pope, said: "These moths are native to the UK and sometimes there are population explosions ... contact with the barbed hairs of these creatures can cause quite serious skin irritations." He said the caterpillars were brown and hairy, with white lines and two red dots.