The London 2012 Olympics is getting some threats, from a moth. Not just any moth for that matter. The Oak Processionary Moth is native to Europe but showed up in the UK around 2006, where a few eggs hitched a ride on oak trees transplanted to London. Since then, its been an environmental chaos.
Reports have brought concerns that its larvae, toxic caterpillars can cause serious illness, and are going to invade the London Olympics and make audiences swell up and itch where they won't be able to enjoy the games. You're probably thinking its just caterpillars. How much damage?
The insects' tiny hairs are sharp barbs that contain a toxin called thaumetopoein and can really ruin your day from having itchy skin lesions to a sore throat to breathing difficulty and severe nausea.
Each Oak Processionary larvae is covered with around 62,000 strands of toxic hair. Which by the way, the caterpillar can freely eject.
The hairs stay chemically toxic for five years after falling to the ground. But once they are detached, and blown out there's a chance it could reach you.
Not only is the caterpillar harmful to humans, its also threatening the trees. Foresters are terrified by the larvae's ability to completely defoliate oak trees.
So how do you get rid of them?
Despite a concerted effort by UK officials to spray the caterpillars shortly after they hatch, the pestilence is spreading.
"Over the past five years it has become clear that the network of pheromone traps has not captured as many moths as expected, nor has it proved particularly effective at monitoring their spread."
As of 2008, no trees can enter the United Kingdom without a special "tree passport,". UK is the new Australia now then.
What do you do if you see them? Just get away. But don't panic. There have been no confirmed deaths due to the moth. At the same time, you'll want your pets to stay away from them as they aren't immune to its toxin etiher.