Beware of processionary caterpillars: A threat to humans and animals in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson

As the temperatures rise across Spain, so does the presence of processionary caterpillars. While they may appear harmless, they pose a significant threat to both animals and humans. The Policía Nacional has issued warnings after spotting these creatures in various regions, urging people to be cautious.

Processionary caterpillars, scientifically known as Thaumetopoea pityocampa, are native to the Mediterranean region, including Spain. They are most commonly found in pine forests, where they feed on pine needles.

The life cycle of a processionary caterpillar starts when the adult moths lay their eggs in pine trees during the summer. The eggs hatch in the autumn, and they spend the winter in nests built from silk and the hairs of their own bodies. In spring, they leave their nests in single file, forming characteristic processions, to find soil where they can bury themselves and pupate.

See the video posted by the Guardia Civil.

Danger to animals and humans

While the sight of these caterpillars marching in a line may seem intriguing, they can be extremely dangerous. Processionary caterpillars are covered in tiny, barbed hairs that contain a potent toxin called thaumetopoein.

For animals, such as dogs, cats, and wildlife, direct contact with these caterpillars or their nests can cause severe allergic reactions, swelling, and necrosis. In some cases, these encounters can even be fatal.

For humans, coming into contact with them can cause skin rashes, irritation, and respiratory problems. Inhaling their hairs can lead to allergic reactions and respiratory distress.

Warning from the Policía Nacional

The Policía Nacional has recently issued warnings via social media platforms after spotting processionary caterpillars in various regions of Spain. In a tweet, they urged people to be cautious and take preventive measures to avoid contact with them.

The tweet highlights the dangers posed by processionary caterpillars and advises people to contact emergency services if they come across these creatures.

Preventive measures

Given the dangers associated with processionary caterpillars, it is essential to take preventive measures to avoid contact with them. Some steps you can take include:

  1. Avoiding contact: Refrain from touching them or their nests.
  2. Keep pets away: Keep your pets away from areas where processionary caterpillars are known to inhabit.
  3. Professional assistance: If you suspect the presence of them on your property, seek assistance from pest control professionals.
  4. Educate yourself: Learn to recognise the signs of processionary caterpillars and their nests, so you can take appropriate action if you encounter them.

Also read: Processionary caterpillars and the hidden dangers

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