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Toxic brown-tail moth caterpillars found on A28 outside Canterbury

By Anna MacSwan

An infestation of poisonous caterpillars has been discovered, sparking health concerns.

Hersden Parish Council has issued a warning urging people to be aware of brown-tail moth larvae, which have been spotted by Chislet Gardens, an estate with some 210 homes off Island Road outside Canterbury.

The critters have also been seen in abundance in hedgerows along the A28 between Hersden and Upstreet.

One of the caterpillars in Chislet Gardens

The species, whose larvae is often found in tell-tale silken webs, has thousands of tiny hairs that can cause intensely itchy rashes, eye problems and sore throats.

In severe cases contact with the black caterpillars, which also have red and white markings, and their nests can cause breathing difficulties and asthma attacks.

One local woman told on Facebook how she was left in hospital and required treatment with adrenaline after previously coming into contact with them.

The toxic caterpillars are often in webs
The toxic caterpillars are often in webs
A brown-tail moth caterpillar
A brown-tail moth caterpillar

A spokesman for the Island Road Hersden Management Company says both Canterbury City Council and Kent County Council have been alerted to the infestation, after a resident raised the alarm.

“They’re very nasty, and you can see them if you go along the hedgerows,” she said.

“It’s well known that they are coming in from Europe, and are affecting the whole of the south east of England.”

Hundreds of toxic caterpillars have been found along Island Road
Hundreds of toxic caterpillars have been found along Island Road

Brown-tail caterpillars are common in late spring and summer but gradually disappear as they turn into moths.

Experts believe the species, which is native to the UK but most commonly found in coastal areas, is becoming more common due to warming climates.

Residents and walkers have been urged not to touch them and to let their children know to avoid anyone getting a nasty rash.

Another caterpillar
Another caterpillar
Caterpillars in the hedgerows
Caterpillars in the hedgerows

Canterbury City Council spokesman Rob Davies says that as the caterpillars will soon become harmless moths the authority has no plans to remove them, but that caution should be exercised if they are seen.

“Brown-tailed moths are very common in the district and this is the time of year for them,” he said.

“The cocoons are distinctive and their colour makes them very noticeable.

“Their hairs can cause a rash if you come into contact with them so our advice is to steer well clear of them,” he added.

To keep up-to-date with all the latest developments with your local hospitals and other health stories, click here.

Escaped animals, unusual finds and news from the RSPCA can all be found here.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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