Veteran Trees

We’re funding a programme to help understand, prevent and control the oak processionary moth at Windsor Great Park – protecting ancient oaks and caring for visitor wellbeing.

The oak processionary moth lays its eggs on oak trees. When the caterpillars emerge, they feed on the leaves and can strip oaks bare. This defoliation makes the trees vulnerable to other pests and diseases, and to droughts and floods.

The caterpillars also pose health risks for people and animals, as their tiny hairs contain an irritant that can cause skin rashes and occasionally sore throats, breathing difficulties and eye problems.

Accidentally introduced to the UK in 2005, the oak processionary moth is widespread in south west London. It is now present close to Windsor Great Park, home to one of the greatest collections of veteran oaks in Europe. So, we’re working with partners such as the Forestry Commission, Royal Parks and Natural England to help understand, prevent and control the oak processionary moth in Windsor and the surrounding area.

Key strands to the programme include:

  • Developing and delivering a strategy to prevent and control this invasive species at Windsor Great Park, including team training, specialist equipment and an action plan to deal with potential outbreaks.
  • Creating educational materials to inform visitors and the local community about the moth, how they can spot it, take simple precautions and help deal with the issue.

    Standing tall today - oak trees planted in Windsor Great Park during the reign of William the Conqueror ”

  • Launching an app for visitors to monitor the oak processionary moth and encourage more people to become members and friends of Windsor Great Park.

In addition, John Deakin, Chief Forester at Windsor, has joined the London Oak Processionary Moth Advisory Group, which is working towards a strategy of containing the disease.

It is vital that we protect the wellbeing of people, animals and oaks at Windsor. Standing tall within the Park today are oaks planted during the reign of William the Conqueror a thousand years ago. They are valued by visitors, important for biodiversity and part of the UK’s cultural heritage. Windsor Forest is also listed as the most important site in the UK for flora and fauna associated with decaying timber on ancient trees.

Our Windsor oak processionary moth programme will inform our approach at our forests and parks throughout England. It may also protect other trees and mitigate further risks, as oak processionary moths will feed on different trees if they run short of oak leaves. Over time, we hope that containment will enable further science to come up with more effective control solutions, perhaps leading to eradication.