Learn lessons from "unsuccessful" OPM control strategy, tree officers urge

Early concerted action could have prevented the establishment in southeastern England of the oak processionary moth (OPM, Thaumetopoea processionea), the London Tree Officers Association has said in a revised position statement on the noxious tree pest.

Image: Renate Meijer
Image: Renate Meijer

"Many tree officers feel that if in 2006, decisive action had been taken - namely the destruction of small numbers of infested trees (as at the Olympic Park) along with chemical spraying with an aggressive, effective pesticide on surrounding host trees - OPM might have been eradicated early on at relatively low cost," the statement published this month says.

It adds that control of the OPM outbreak in Pangbourne, Berkshire through centralised intervention by the Forestry Commission "has arguably brought OPM close to eradication in this area", and also points to the swift and "apparently successful" treatments of outbreak of Asian longhorn beetle in Kent and of oriental chestnut gall wasp in Hertfordshire as evidence of what could have been achieved with OPM.

The LTOA also urges the continuation of a "centralised, co-ordinated control programme" against OPM, and warns: "Passing the responsibility to individual underfunded local authorities virtually guarantees uncontrolled spread of this pest."

It also call for more research into alternative methods of control such as the use of pheromones to confuse males or interfere with sexual reproduction, genetic manipulation and identifying natural predators.

And it warns against removing oak trees infested with OPM as "disproportionate", adding: "We encourage other organisations to endorse this view, as such action could have widespread impact upon oak populations within the affected areas, altering the landscape through removal of amenity and heritage trees and biodiversity through the destruction of crucial habitat."

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