Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Processionary Caterpillars

Now is the time of year to be vigilant for emerging caterpillars. Late this year because of the prolonged cold weather, they will soon be leaving their cocoon in pine trees to move on to the next stage in their lifecycle. If you see them on the road, try and run over them – obviously making sure you drive safely !

If you are able to reach a nest, carefully remove it by cutting down and burning. [Make sure you burn according to local fire restrictions / regulations] Be aware that even hairs left in old, disintegrated nests can still cause a skin reaction.

[nighttime when they emerge to feed on the sap from the pine needles]

They are extremely dangerous to domestic pets and people as their hairs are extremely urticarious. Any contact with the hairs will cause a severe rash to the skin and if they get into mouth or eyes, you should wash with abundant amounts of water and see a doctor as soon as possible. If you know your cat or dog has had contact – usually through sniffing at them or trying to eat them, again use a shower to rinse the remaining hairs away, especially from the mouth, and get to the vet URGENTLY.

[it didn’t help that the wind was blowing whilst trying to film this !]

The following is from Wikipedia :

The Pine Processionary (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) is a moth of the family Thaumetopoeidae. It is sometimes placed in the genus Traumatocampa. It is an abundant species of pine woods in central and southern Europe.

Traumatocampa pityocampa01.jpg

It has cream coloured forewings with brown markings and white hindwings. The species flies from May to July. The larva is a major forest pest, living communally in large ‘tents’, usually in pine trees but occasionally in cedar or larch, marching out at night in single file (hence the common name) to feed on the needles. There are often several such tents in a single tree. When they are ready to pupate, the larvae march in their usual fashion to the ground, where they disperse to pupate singly on or just below the surface. The larvae should never be handled as the abundant hairs on their bodies cause extreme irritation to the skin.




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