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Climate change brings toxic moth to England

By Reuters (Reuters) - June 14, 2007

LONDON – A species of toxic moth which has been moving steadily north from the Mediterranean because of global warming has reached England, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew said on Wednesday.

Emergency measures have been put in place to protect trees in Kew Gardens in West London, where a number of Oak Processionary Moths (Thaumetopoea processionea) have been discovered, Kew Gardens said in a statement.

“The Oak Processionary Moth’s natural range is the Mediterranean regions of Europe. However, in recent years, its range has extended northwards, possibly as a result of climate change,” it said.

The moth was last reported to have reached Belgium, where its presence caused areas of forest to be closed to the public.

The Oak Moth lays its eggs in oak trees, and the caterpillars eat the trees’ foliage. The poisonous hairs on the caterpillars’ back can cause itchy rashes, breathing difficulties and severe allergic reactions in humans.

Kew said the moths found in England were believed to have entered the country as eggs laid on imported trees, so the immediate danger was limited.