Pine Processionary Caterpillar removal

During December and January you may notice what seems to be a silky white nest of what could be cotton wool high up in a pine tree. These are the nests of the pine processionary caterpillar (Thaumetopoea pityocampa).

They leave their nests in pine trees in the late winter/early spring and form conspicuous snakelike lines. It is as they leave the trees that most people and pets come into contact with the caterpillars, sometimes with very painful consequences.

Each caterpillar is covered with tiny barbed hairs, it is these which do us harm. They are constantly being dropped throughout its time as a caterpillar. They are too tiny to see, but cover the branches of the tree where the creatures have been feasting and of course the nests are loaded with them. They are in the air around a heavily infested tree, like a dust cloud.

When humans come into contact with these hairs, they can cause reactions ranging from mild inflammation and irritation to severe anaphylactic shock. If the hairs contact your skin a rash soon forms which can be incredibly itchy, painful and lasts for as much as three weeks.The worst problems occur if you make contact with the caterpillar directly and ingest the hairs.

Veterinary services have many emergency calls at the time when the caterpillars are migrating to the ground as dogs can get too close to the intriguing procession and may pick up the hairs onto their paws, these irritate and so they lick them. Once the hairs are on the lips/tongue it will induce itching, swelling and possibly vomiting. Look out for the symptoms of small white spots in the mouth and on the tongue, excessive drooling and chomping.

Be safe and call us to remove and dispose of nests in your pine trees, and also for preventative measures during the year.