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British officials are already taking actions to survey, monitor, and eliminate nests, which present as white, silken webbing on the trunks and branches of oak trees. In the meantime, theyre warning residents to look out for and stay away from the caterpillars.

One gardener who unknowingly had a run-in with the pests described her symptoms to the BBC, saying:

My first symptom was a rash on my tummy. I was unaware of what it was and thought at first it was a heat rash... I had spells of feeling violently sick. I thought I might have shingles.

The rash got worse and the left side of my face became covered in this sore irritating rash. My left eye became very sore and weepy.

I contacted my doctor and it was confirmed I had been severely affected by OPM and must keep away from the source as over time I had developed a severe allergic reaction.

OPM is a relatively new problem for the country. The species is native to southern Europe, where there are other native predators and environmental factors that keep them in check. The species was likely introduced to Britain by accident in 2005 as eggs on live oak imports. OPM has since spread and likely been reintroduced several times. The Forestry Commission notes that if they are left unchecked, they would likely survive and breed in much of England and Wales.

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