Beware of the pine processionary
Imagine you have found a wonderful free pitch or a great hiking trail in a pine forest. Suddenly your child collapses and can’t breathe or has an asthma attack. Or your dog collapses because he can’t breathe and his snout is completely swollen. Only now do you notice the caterpillars or the strange-looking spider web they were in contact with. Pine Processionary! Quick help is important now, otherwise this encounter can end very sadly and your holiday would be completely ruined. That’s why it’s important to be careful right from the start. Better safe than sorry!
What are pine processionary?
They have nothing to do with spiders as one could imagine from the big nests they are spinning. Pine processionaries belong to the butterflies family and are moths. However, it takes some time until a moth develops. First of all the eggs are laid in the crowns of a pine tree by the females. In autumn the young caterpillar develops, which hibernates in the egg. As soon as it gets warmer and spring comes, the caterpillars hatched. In Spain this can happen already in January depending on the temperature. They skin shed up to six times before the pupation occurs. The caterpillars create a kind of large spider’s nest, in which they retreat during the day. They are sociable and go at night together in small groups in a procession in search of food. Hence the name “Processionary”.
Why are they dangerous for humans and dogs?
With the third moulting of the caterpillars the poisonous and for us humans dangerous hairs develop. These contain a nettle poison and can cause severe skin irritation up to asthma attacks. Children are particularly at risk because they are smaller and, of course, curious. It is advisable to take children in such an area by the hand and point out to them that the nests and caterpillars can become very dangerous.
The situation is different with dogs who usually run with their noses on the ground and are constantly sniffing. For dogs, contact with procession weirdoes can even be more fatal. Because the fine hairs can enter the respiratory tract and cause it to swell within seconds, so that the animal cannot breathe anymore and suffocates. There helps only one thing, take the dog to the short leash and watch where his nose moves. If you, your child or the dog has come into contact with a caterpillar or nest, you should see a doctor in no time. Every minute counts for the child and dog! The simplest thing is not to come into contact with the caterpillars at all and to to circumvent nests widely and keep an eye on the ground.
Where do they occur?
- Mainly in pines, but also in all other conifers
- Mediterranean region, and also on the Atlantic coast of France, Spain and Portugal
- Oak processionaries are widespread in almost all of Europe as far as Russia and Asia.
What can you do to avoid contact?
A great place by the sea, a bit hidden and protected in the nearby pine forest is a dream. But take a good look at the place and look for processionary nests in the trees. In case of doubt, it is better to stand further away from the pine trees.
You should also be careful when walking through the woods. As soon as one of the nests appears, then you can assume that it is not the only one.
If you are not sure, take the child by the hand and the dog on the short leash. Always have your mobile phone close to you to get help quickly.
If you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to contact me.