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 Elle Draper

Processionary caterpillars in Spain

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Processionary caterpillars were probably the insects that shocked us the most when we moved to Spain. These creepy-crawlies can cause horrific damage to people and animals… even by touch.

Processionary caterpillars in Spain

Processionary caterpillars (Latin name thaumetopoea pityocampa)

Unlike the cute fluffy critters that we were used to back in the UK, these caterpillars are simply nasty. Their fine hairs can use irritation, rash and pain and in some cases have resulted in dogs needing their tongues fully or partially removed.

Processionary caterpillars in Spain - Nest

Processionary caterpillars’ nest in Almería, Spain. Image ©Alan Gandy. Copyright notice.

The nests are usually seen in the first three months of the year, often in pine trees. The caterpillars themselves are seen in lines (hence the name “processionary”) wandering from place to place.

Do NOT touch these nasties. If you see them while out and about, walk away in the opposite direction and keep your pets well away from them.

If you have them on your property, be very careful if you are trying to remove them yourself. Do not sweep them up – this only causes the hairs to go airborne. If they are in a tree, then first spray them with hairspray to limit the hair flying. Then cover with a plastic bag and securing it to the branch. Remove the branch and burn the lot. Obviously be careful of any fire in the campo. If in doubt, get a local pest controller to come and do it for you. Better to be safe than sorry.

If the caterpillars are on the ground – again spray them with hairspray, and then lighter fluid. Then set fire to them. Once again, be very mindful of forest fires. A coupe of wayward sparks can soon cause irreparable damage.

If your pet has been anywhere near them and shows ANY signs of irritation – get them to a vet as fast as possible. If it is you or your children, gain medical advice as soon as you can.

6 Responses to Processionary caterpillars in Spain

  1. Ruby January 10, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Be vigilant out walking, look at every pine tree, nests look like candy floss on south facing branches. Take a can of max strength insecticide with you, spray thoroughly every nest you see. Forget hairspray and burning, it could cause a fire, and the nests are not particularly flammable, so caterpillars may not be destroyed ( lived here with 4 weimaraners) insecticide has killed 100% of the nests I’ve sprayed

  2. Ian Wood January 10, 2017 at 9:38 am

    I have never seen them in moraira

  3. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper January 10, 2017 at 11:48 am

    They tend to gather in pine trees. Do you have pines there Ian?

  4. Dora January 20, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Experienced the caterpillars in the pine tree park in Calahonda as well as along the wooden walkway in Cabopino last year from February onwards. After finding that dogs weren’t officially allowed on the beaches, we struggled to find safe places to walk our dog.

  5. Jade Ward January 26, 2017 at 10:15 am

    We have seen them in Ávila.

  6. Richard May 1, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Agree with your comment. We typically have 30 or 40 nests in the pine trees on our finca. Most nests are too high to reach and burn. So I also use an insectiside, Imidacloprid obtained from our local acricultural supplier. I use a backpack spray and can reach up about 4 metres. I spray the nests and surrounding needles.
    I also paint the trunks of the pine trees with sticky black tar, the type used in the UK to stop insects climbing up fruit trees. So far I think I have killed the caterpillars before they descend the trees.

    We have two dogs so it is important to protect them. I find the nests start appearing as early as October.

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