Caterpillar horde descends on street
A POISONOUS plague of furry caterpillars has landed two people in hospital and left several more with breathing difficulties.
Thousands of the creepy crawlies have taken over a street in New Addington, causing residents to break out in rashes, and killing a 40-year-old pear tree.
The Coppins has been swarming with brown-tail moth caterpillars, causing residents to brand it their "Nightmare On Elm Street".
Paula Davey said: "We have a plague of caterpillars taking over the road.
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"I've read they are especially dangerous to elderly people and children and I'm scared stiff.
"Our 10-year-old granddaughter was playing in the garden when she came to see us a couple of weeks ago and she hasn't been able to breathe properly since."
Paula added: "I planted a rose bush in memory of my son who died 10 years ago and now it's dead because of them."
Husband Ron, 75, said the couple were frightened to open doors and windows in case they came in. He said: "This is destroying everything."
The insects are covered in small, poisonous hairs which can break off easily, leading to skin irritations and asthmatic reactions.
A spokesman from Cleankill Pest Control in Kenley said: "The caterpillars are the babies of brown-tail moths.
"We've been having a lot of calls about this in the last month."
Ann Wild, 69, went to hospital after suffering a reaction.
She said: "I had been out in the front garden and started to feel really rough.
"I had to go to bed at 6pm I felt so bad, and when I woke up it felt like my face was on fire.
"It's like a Nightmare On Elm Street round here – we need help."
Any skin irritations should be washed immediately with hot soapy water and calamine lotion applied.
Medical treatment should be sought if symptoms persist or if caterpillar hairs get into the eyes or are inhaled.
Croydon Council has been spraying bushes and trees on public land, but it is expected there will be another week of the infestation before the caterpillars move on to the next stage of their life-cycle.
A spokesman advised those affected to call a reputable pest control service.