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 (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.
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.