Over the past few years, our regions have been ravaged by the oak processionary. The hairs of the caterpillars cause itching and irritate the eyes and airways of anyone who comes near them. As well as directly damaging health, the caterpillars are also responsible for indirect damage; they can damage oak trees, cause problems among pets and livestock and lead to the closure of camp sites, festivals, pub gardens, cycling and walking paths and so on. The oak processionary often, therefore, has a negative effect on recreation, tourism and economic activities.
At locations where there is a major issue, the oak processionary is controlled. This currently involves the use of insecticides and the removal of caterpillars using suction. This process, however, is highly labour intensive and very expensive for the municipalities. The use of biocides is also damaging to biodiversity and is regulated by European legislation. A sustainable, ecological and affordable solution must be found.
The most important objective of this LIFE project is drastically reducing the use of biocides (insecticides) in the control of the oak processionary, by making ecological control methods the norm and embedding these ecological methods in both regional and national legislation.
In order to realise this objective, the effectiveness of three ecological control methods will be subject to large scale testing, evaluation and demonstration in Flanders and the Netherlands. Numerous demonstration opportunities and workshops in this context, as well as training and information opportunities in each of the provinces concerned, will be provided for all the potential stakeholders (policy-makers, local governments, anyone working in a nature-related context, those tackling the issue itself, fire-fighters and so on). The project will also provide clear guidelines and a decision-tree regarding the best techniques. By so doing, we hope to convince policy-makers, local governments and those tackling the issue in the field to take action and apply the ecological control methods as much as possible.