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Effective control of oak processionary moths for the protection of humans is possible.

04/2013, 22.02.2013

Experts discussed control strategies at a status seminar organised by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the Julius Kühn-Institute

Oak processionary moth numbers continue to be on the rise in Germany. Apart from oak forests, oaks in green areas within cities, for example along avenues, on playgrounds, in public parks and recreation areas near cities are increasingly affected. The caterpillars grow stinging hair in their third chrysalis stage which can cause serious harm to human health. From the viewpoint of health protection this is not acceptable. “Typical symptoms following contact with the stinging hair include skin and eye irritation and breathing difficulties. Sensitive persons can have pseudoallergic reactions including shock”, says Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). “Control of the moths in their first two larval stages is therefore urgently required and should be implemented by April at the latest.” On the occasion of a status seminar held on 18 February, representatives of ministries, federal and state authorities as well as practitioners discussed what options are available for the year 2013. The situation is legally complex, since control measures must be based on different legal foundations depending on the application area and the protection target. “The protection of oaks in forests from complete defoliation and destruction, must be based on the Plant Protection Act”, says Professor Dr. Georg Backhaus, President of the Julius Kühn Institute (JKI).

Apart from plant protection legislation, three pesticides are available for controlling oak processionary moths in the year 2013. Measures taken to combat oak processionary moths can make use of these products in 2013. However, their use in some cases requires submitting an application with the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL). In accordance with § 18 of the Plant Protection Act, only one pesticide is currently approved for systematic control from the air in forestry.

Since in urban areas, the main concern are the adverse health effects of infestation, oak processionary moth control measures in towns must be implemented in accordance with biocide legislation. In accordance with biocide legislation, no biocide products have been approved specifically for combatting oak processionary moths. However, there are products which, due to the currently applicable interim regulation and for reasons of health protection, can legally be used for oak processionary moth control.

In the opinion of the federal authorities who are responsible in accordance with biocide legislation, the possibility of using biocide-free alternatives should be investigated in the course of defining a combat strategy, and this should be done before any chemical and biological agents are used. If possible in a specific infestation situation, the measures taken should include – apart from organisational measures such as temporary prohibition of access and warnings – mechanical measures, notably suction treatment of nests by special firms. If this approach is not sufficient in accordance with the damage threshold principle in a specific infestation situation or if it is not justifiable for reasons of health protection of the population, products working in different ways available in the market can be used in accordance with the concrete situation in hand.

At the status seminar, feasible options for situation-related control using the products and pesticides available were presented for different infestation scenarios. A short overview of the points discussed here has been drawn up by all of the competent federal authorities. This overview will soon be published on the web pages of the BfR and JKI.

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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