Newhaven couple plagued by poisonous caterpillars

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A Newhaven woman whose house and garden are plagued by poisonous caterpillars has said she wouldn’t wish the distress it’s caused on anyone.

Hayley Stevens found a few brown-tail moth caterpillars in her garden three weeks ago and thought little more of it. However, within days, thousands appeared and a nest was discovered among the bushes.

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The distinctive creatures have left Hayley and her husband with painful, itchy rashes and made them reluctant to step outside of their home.

Mrs Stevens said: “First of all, I just noticed one or two in the garden, and then suddenly there were more and more. There’s now a nest of thousands of caterpillars at the bottom of my garden.

“You don’t have to touch the caterpillars to be affected by them - they have up to three million toxic, barbed hairs that are so fragile, they blow off in the wind.

“The caterpillars are all over my garden and climbing up the walls and windows of my house. I put the recycling out yesterday and one fell on my head - it was horrible.

“It’s reached the point where we’re not opening our windows or doors, and we’re reluctant to even leave the house because there’s no avoiding the caterpillars or their poisonous hairs.”

The couple have had numerous appointments at the doctors to try to find something that will calm the irritating rashes caused by the caterpillar’s poison.

Mrs Stevens added: “We’ve both been taking antihistamine tablets, using antihistamine cream and camomile lotion, but nothing seems to be working that well. I’m now on steroid cream prescribed by the doctor, so we’ll see if that works. It’s an extra worry for asthmatics, like me, and hay fever sufferers. If you get one in your eye, it can cause conjunctivitis, and in the absolute worst case scenario, if you breathe in one of these hairs, it can cause anaphylactic shock.

“I know at least eight of my neighbours who have been affected by these caterpillars as well, so it’s not just my house.”

Mrs Stevens has tried numerous different avenues to try and get the caterpillars removed none of which has proved fruitful so far.

She added: “I have spoken to the council but they have said it’s not something they can help with as they don’t consider the brown-tail moth caterpillars to be a pest.

“I’ve tried pest control but they’ve quoted £300 per garden to sort out, which is a lot of money. There’s also no guarantee it would solve the problem.

“Seahaven Academy, which backs onto my garden, also has nests and even though I’ve told them about it, they seem reluctant to do anything.

“It means that even if I were to pay to sort out the nests in my garden, they would probably just come through from the school and I’d be back to square one.

“The caterpillars will be here until July, when they turn into moths, but the cycle will start all over again next spring when new eggs hatch. It’s a vicious cycle and I don’t know who to turn to about it.

“It’s affecting every aspect of our lives. I was due to have family round for my grandson’s birthday at the weekend but we had to cancel. It’s also impacting on pets, as my neighbour is reluctant to take her dog outside just in case.

“It’s a living hell. I wouldn’t wish this distress on anyone.”