Page last updated at 07:38 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 08:38 UK

Health-risk moths prompt warning

Brown Tail Moth caterpillar
The Brown Tail Moth caterpillars are dark grey with orange dots

Warnings about an infestation of moths that pose a health risk have been issued in an area of Kent.

Tonbridge and Malling council said populations of the Brown Tail Moth were increasing across parts of the borough.

Hairs on the caterpillars can cause considerable skin irritation and trigger severe breathing difficulties, councillor Owen Baldock said.

People are warned to avoid unnecessary contact with the caterpillars and help reduce populations by pruning shrubs.

'Cover skin'

Mr Baldock said the caterpillars spun white tents which helped the insects to survive the winter, and which could be seen easily after leaves fell from the trees.

He said people could control the moths by cutting off affected twigs in the autumn.

Residents who remove affected twigs should cover their skin, wear rubber gloves, seal the twigs in a bag and either burn them or place them in a wheeled bin, while disturbing the tents as little as possible, he added.

The caterpillars, which are described as dark grey with ginger-brown hair and two orange spots near the tail, are usually found in hedgerows and trees.

In large numbers, the insects can devastate vegetation in gardens and open spaces. Brown Tail moth populations have been increasing across the country.

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