Pine processionary caterpillars out and about

Pine processionary caterpillars
Processionary caterpillars in a line

IF you have seen white, candyfloss like webs high in pine trees, keep a watchful eye on the ground for the pine processionary caterpillar.

It is around March, April, May as the temperature rises that the caterpillars head to woodland floors in search of a place to pupate and it is when you will see the characteristic long lines as they follow each other nose to tail.

And while that is a view of nature to behold, the Pine processionary caterpillar has a horrible ‘feature’, the small hairs on its back are poisonous and can be a terrible irritant if touched.

Health body, ANSES, has said that the pine processionary caterpillar has spread further northwards and westwards across France over recent years, and are worried that people may not be aware of the risks they pose.

Pets at risk

But cats and dogs are particularly at risk as the fine hairs can become embedded in the mouth, or stomach, and if not spotted quickly and dealt with by a vet, can prove fatal.

According to data from veterinary poison control centres, 91% of reported cases of exposure involve dogs, with cats accounting for around 7% of cases.

Among dogs, the tongue and mouth are most frequently irritated, young dogs being more frequently affected.

Pine processionary caterpillars move across the ground

I saw first hand the impact they have on a young dog when a friend’s pet must have investigated the caterpillars and a short time later began frothing at the mouth.

A visit to the vet was necessary and fortunately the dog was able to be treated and survived the scare.

Among cats, the paws and digestive system are most at risk.

Beyond keeping your pets close to heel, there is little you can do to keep the caterpillars at bay.

Professionals will use blow torch apparatus to burn the insects, but the trees in a small area will play host to hundreds of nests.

So just keep an eye out for the Pine processionary caterpillar, stay clear of pine trees if you are worried, and let the little beasts progress on their way.


Categorised as Health

By Craig McGinty

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