Hedge cut is mothballed!

IPSWICH: They may only be a few millimetres in length but can cause painful skin rashes – and they could be lurking in a bush near you!

A plague of caterpillars that have sparked health alerts across Britain have arrived in Ipswich.

A number of Brown Tail Moth caterpillars have been spotted nesting in a hedge in the Stoke Park area of the town.

The issue came to light after a councillor complained about the hedge length and was told the caterpillars may have prevented the hedge, near the Oak Lee Flats in Stoke Park Drive, from being cut.

The insects caused the previous hedge-cutter to suffer such a bad allergic reaction that he needed steroids to quell the pain.

Councillor Richard Kirby said: “Last summer the man who cuts the hedge had a severe allergic reaction to the moths. He needed steroids to ease the discomfort.

“I gather that the caretaker who maintains the site has since been warned not to cut the hedge.

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“After a month or so they turn into moths and pose no threat, but nobody knows if they’re still in there.”

Mr Kirby first noticed that the hedge had become overgrown in February.

He added: “The company which maintains the flats and the hedge cleared it up in March but it’s since grown back.

“It looks a mess. It’s overgrown and spreads on to the pavement – people will be tripping over it soon.

“I have contacted the firm again but had no response. Maybe they’re worried about the caterpillars being there.

“But it is a serious issue. People are probably not aware of the caterpillars and they may come into contact with them if the hedge continues to grow.”

The caterpillars each have up to two million brown hairs which can break off into the air and cause severe allergic reactions.

These can lead to people suffering breathing problems, itchy skin rashes and headaches.

Previously only found on the south-east coast, the insects have been swarming north over the last few years thanks to Britain’s increasingly warm weather.

A spokesman for Sanctuary Hereward Housing Association, which maintains the hedge, said: “We are aware that there has been a problem with brown tail moths in the hedge and have worked with environmental health specialists to eradicate the problem safely.

“To ensure maximum safety we have had to undertake long-term treatment to minimise the likelihood of the moths returning.

“Our contractors will carry out extensive pruning today along the busiest areas of the path and the remainder will be cut back on August 2.”

The Health Protection Agency has warned anyone who comes into contact with the caterpillar’s hair to wash their hands and eyes and use calamine lotion if they develop a rash.