Improved early detection of Oak Processionary Moth


This project explores novel approaches to detecting tree pests. Using the case of Oak Processionary Moth, it aims assess the potential of medical health and other professionals to form part of an ‘early warning’ systems to detect new infestations.

  • OPM damage to trees
    Damage to tree from Oak Processionary Moth
  • OPM Skin irritation
    Skin irritation caused by contact with OPM

Research objectives

This project will:

  • Determine whether human and animal health professionals such as GPs, Vets, pharmacists and Park officials (e.g. Richmond Park) are recording health conditions, resulting from interactions with the Oak Processionary Moth, that can act as early indicators of potential new outbreaks of OPM
  • Evaluate the potential of social media to contribute to an early warning system of localised health impacts caused by OPM

Results so far

This project is ongoing but early results suggest that medical professionals such as general practitioners and vets currently lack much knowledge of OPM and are not receiving or reporting human/animal health incidences. Pharmacists appear to be more aware and are more likely the first port of call for those individuals who have health symptoms associated with tree pests.
Social media (e.g. Twitter) does not appear to be a feasible route to early detection. The few cases of key words (e.g. itching, rash) being used were not linked to areas where OPM nests are known. However, it may be that that there were no negative impacts caused by OPM in the area under study.

Funders and partners

Funder: Defra


  • Fera
  • University of Bath
  • Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford




Mariella Marzano