A flurry of furry caterpillars has swept over New Addington, stripping tree bark and leaving residents with breathing problems.

The brown and orange insects have infiltrated The Coppins, taking the entire outer layer off a pear tree off while several people have been taken to hospital with breathing difficulties.

The caterpillars are also leaving people with a rash.

Paula Davey, 69, The Coppins, said: "Originally we could see them hanging in a cotton wool-like pod, lots of them, in something the size of a grapefruit. You could see the caterpillars moving inside.

"Now people have been having them going under their front doors, through their windows, and lots of people have come out in a rash. One lady had to go to hospital, it looked like shingles it was so bad."

The creepy-crawleys are thought to be tail moths which can grow up to 1.5 inches long Brown tail moth caterpillars each have up to two million brown hairs which can break off into the air and cause severe allergic reactions.

Previously only found on the south-east coast the insects have been swarming north over the last few years thanks to Britain's increasingly warm weather.

Paul Bates, Director of Cleankill Pest Control in Kenley said if residents want to tackle the infestations themselves they need to be very careful.

Mr Bates said: “Residents should be keeping their children and even animals away from the caterpillers.

“If you are going to try and remove the nests yourself you want to be wrapping up with gauntlets and barrier creams to stop them being affected.

“There is still a massive risk.

“These sort of infestations should really be dealt with in the winter before they become a problem. With the heat the way it is they will be moving from tree to tree very quickly.”