Advice re Pine Processionary Caterpillars

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Advice re Pine Processionary Caterpillars

by Cathy » Tue Apr 12, 2016 12:49 pm

I have had an email from someone interested in coming to the Ariege but asks if Pine Processionary Caterpillars are a concern. She says they are spreading up from Spain, and asks are they more prevalent in our area than further up France and are they a genuine problem to day to day living when they are doing their thing?

I know these exist but have never seen them and do not know what damage they can do. Can anyone help?

Thanks for all your knowledgeable replies which I am sure will be forthcoming.

Cathy
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Re: Advice re Pine Processionary Caterpillars

by kalba » Tue Apr 12, 2016 5:10 pm

They are very prevalent here, and unlike other departments (66 for example) there's no departmental wide policy on dealing with them. If you have pine trees near you then there's a fair chance that you'll have pine processionary nests. We have two, too high to reach, and are monitoring them anxiously every day as we have a dog (see below).

They're a danger to people (if you touch them you'll get very nasty and painful burn-type rash) but they're particularly a danger to dogs, who MUST be kept away. If they sniff, touch or lick them, it can be extremely serious and they can lose parts of their tongue or even die - it requires an emergency vet visit within a couple of hours for antidote.

They're leaving the nests now - some have already left - so alertness is vital. They will spend up to to 48 hours meandering around on the ground looking for somewhere to burrow in order to become moths. If nests are accessible they should be burned, as should the 'processions' - up to 3 metres long - if they're seen on the ground. It's a horribly unpleasant job and very, very thick gloves need to be worn along with a mask, as even proximity to the tiny hairs will cause a reaction.

It's possible to buy eco-traps that fit around the trunk of the tree and will capture the caterpillars as they climb down the trees.

The moths live just one day and their job is to start the process all over again. This - June or July - is the point to take avoiding action and there are products available to do this.

Lots of info out there on Google too. We learned about them the hard way when we first arrived - had never seen or heard of them before!
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Re: Advice re Pine Processionary Caterpillars

by arthur45 » Tue Apr 12, 2016 9:57 pm

Each year from the "Jardin des Chiots" I send mails to all past and present dog-owning customers, as soon as we have the first messages about the beasties descending from the trees. This year we actually had two dogs, that I know of, injured in January, rather than from early March onwards, thanks to the very mild winter. Both survived, with fast vet treatment.

Everything Kalba says is correct. For humans, except for a few unfortunate hyper-sensitive people (as for bee-stings and some other allergies), contact is rarely very serious although clearly irritating and unpleasant. But for dogs (especially young puppies and small breeds) it can be fatal. Interestingly, I have never heard of a problem with cats, but that may be because of my canine concentration.

For someone worrying about moving here, I would not be too worried - it's just a question of being aware for a few weeks each year, and taking some preventative action if you have pine trees in your own garden.

Arthur
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Re: Advice re Pine Processionary Caterpillars

by arthur45 » Thu May 05, 2016 10:37 pm

As a PS, and if you have the trees on your own land, I have noticed this year that in public areas, campsites etc., down on the coast the methods of trapping on the tree seem to be becoming more widespread and effective. A plastic band round the trunk some metres up a tree spirals the descending caterpillars into a plastic bag where they drown or die. I'm saying effective judging by the number of corpses I saw in some of the traps. I can't imagine that these bits of simple plastic kit can be too expensive, although I haven't researched. They avoid the close contact that Kalba was rightly advising against. Arthur
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