Waging war on toxic caterpillars in Croydon
War has been declared on a plague of toxic moths that have invaded the borough.
After two years of widely-reported outbreaks of Brown Tailed moths in and around New Addington, the council are to embark on a programme to eradicate the moth for good.
The programme which is thought to be one of the first of its kind in the country, involves a council-sweep of gardens where the pests are thought to be nesting.
In their larvae form, the caterpillars can pose a health risk to people who come into contact with their millions of tiny hairs, which are known to cause a variety of skin, eye and respiratory problems. They also destroy trees and bushes.
Council surveyors will visit properties in the most affected areas during February.
Usually, councils only treat areas of public land that are infested, but Croydon Council now wants to tackle private gardens too in a bid to eradicate the problem once and for all.
The work, which is free, is taking place now because it is when the caterpillars are hibernating, making them easier to contain.
It is hoped, by clearing them from private and public land, the project has a greater chance of success.
There is no obligation to accept the work, but people are recommended to allow it to take place so if caterpillars are found they can be safely removed.
Councillor Phil Thomas, cabinet member for highways and environmental services said: "Although we have attempted to get rid of these caterpillars from public land for several years we believe their numbers are on the increase because of how many go unnoticed in gardens.
"This can then lead to re-infestation of the land we have cleared earlier in the year."
:: Brown tail moth caterpillars have up to two million brown hairs which can break off and cause severe allergic reactions
:: The larval webs of this moth are commonly found on hawthorn and bramble
:: The species is mainly found around the south and east coasts of England.
:: The wings are pure white, as is the body except for a tuft of brown hairs at the end of the abdomen
:: The wing span is 36 to 42mm