Pine Processionary Caterpillars

Pine Processionary Caterpillars

Whilst walking along a path in a pine forest, I noticed a group of caterpillars moving in line in front of me. A later investigation revealed that they were Pine Processionary Caterpillars, so-called because the caterpillars move in  head-to-tail processions. I was glad that I didn’t look more closely at then because I discovered that their hairs can sting. They are also one of the most destructive of forest insects, capable of stripping hundreds of pines during  the winter months.

These caterpillars can cause rashes on the skins of both humans and animals. The way this happens is  that when threatened they discharge 1000s of tiny hairs into the atmosphere. These hairs contain irritants which, if they come in contact with the eyes, can sometimes cause temporary blindness. Some allergic individuals can react badly to these hairs and should seek medical assistance immediately.

Pine Processionary Moth

Dogs are often fascinated by the procession of these caterpillars and sniff or eat them. This can cause a severe reaction to the dog’s nose, mouth and tongue and in severe cases dogs have been known to lose a part or all of its tongue. Even empty nests can cause problems so don’t try to remove one without seeking expert advice.

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