Unwanted guests in the form of poisonous caterpillars could be making their way to London just in time for the Olympic Games, according to media reports.
While authorities are reportedly setting up missile launchers on the rooftops of homes, nature's own threat to the games may be lurking in oak trees. The larval form of the oak processionary moth can cause vomiting and dizziness if their hairs are inhaled, potentially "bringing misery to millions of spectators," warns The Telegraph in the UK this week.
The caterpillar contains 63,000 toxic hairs, which can also lead to asthma attacks, skin and throat rashes, and watery eyes.
The poisonous caterpillar first appeared in Britain in 2006 after they came over on oak trees imported from Holland and then rapidly spread across the region. While officials have destroyed upward of 700 nests, they fear the pests may be on the rise, due to an unseasonably warm winter.
Tony Kirkham, head of the arboretum at Kew Gardens, told The Telegraph that while efforts are being made, the pests are difficult to eradicate. "We use spray to keep them at bay but even the nest removals at Kew don't totally control oak processionary moths," he said. "You can slow them down but we will never find them all. They will always keep increasing."
If you're planning to attend to the Olympics or live in the area affected, steer clear of nests and report citings to Forest Research in the UK. While people may experience symptoms differently, you can treat rashes using antihistamine creams. Those suffering more dramatic symptoms are advised to see a doctor, or contact the NHS.