Public warned to avoid skin-irritating caterpillars in Peterborough city centre

Tree tubs in St John's Square which have been taped off. Photo: Canon Ian Black
Tree tubs in St John's Square which have been taped off. Photo: Canon Ian Black
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The public has been told to avoid caterpillars in Peterborough city centre which can cause mild skin irritation.

Warnings from Peterborough City Council have been put on taped off tree tubs in St John’s Square about browntail moth caterpillars which have been spotted.

The warning states: “It is advised you avoid contact with these caterpillars as they can cause mild skin irritation.

“Measures have been put in place to control the caterpillar numbers, but during the interim we ask that you do not enter the planted areas, touch or pick up any insects or trees or parts of trees that may have become dislodged.”

The skin irritation is described on the warning as being similar to a nettle rash with the discomfort subsiding after a few hours.

The tree tubs in the square are owned by Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT).

PECT chief executive Carly Leonard said: “Unfortunately the trees in St John’s Square have become infested with browntail moth caterpillars.

“Amey visited the site today to put cordons and safety notices around the trees and PECT are working with PCC and Amey to come to a fast solution for dealing with the issue.

“Our advice is that people can have severe reactions when coming into contact with the caterpillars and therefore we need to act quickly in the interests of public safety.

“The trees themselves have become quite damaged from the infestation and, regrettably, they will need to be removed as soon as possible. We will be taking advice on appropriate replacement planting for the Square.”

Amey is the company contracted by the council to provide waste and street cleansing services in Peterborough.

A council spokesman said: “We have encouraged PECT to take action to resolve the issue swiftly. The responsibility would rest with PECT, however we have offered them Amey’s services if required.”