Processionary Caterpillars Costa del Sol

Processionary Caterpillars

Many people who live in Spain with their children or dogs need to be made aware of one of the most dangerous natural enemies that can be found in some gardens and in the countryside. The processionary pine caterpillar as the name suggests makes its home in a certain type of pine tree. This tree is very popular here in Spain and is a protected species so even if you have pine trees in the garden you cannot cut them down. There is only one generation per year and most of the time the caterpillars are not seen and therefore not a threat. The most dangerous time is in February, March and April when they start to come down from the pine trees in search of food. The caterpillars can do a lot of damage to pine trees and when they have stripped a tree of all its needles they will form a long line and begin their search for other pine trees and more food.

This processionary line makes them particularly attractive to young children, who are used to their non-toxic cousins in England. However, dogs are very much at risk, as they tend to sniff the caterpillars and inhale the poison. If you are in Spain in the early part of the year and are travelling through areas of pine trees have a look out for the nests. They are very easy to see. Just look for white cocoons similar to candy floss in the trees and make a fast exit. Whatever you do, do not stop and go walking about under the trees. The long line they form makes them easily identifiable, hence the name. Long hairs give out poison that when touched irritates the skin. Allergic reactions are not unknown and if ingested the consequences can be serious. As any dust from the tree that has been inhaled can cause lung damage. The tiniest bit of dust that floats down from an infected tree can cause the allergic reaction. You do not have to touch the caterpillar.

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At around March time the caterpillars leave their nest, and they follow one another forming a trail head to toe, sometimes numbering several hundred in one long processionary. Once they find soft soil they bury themselves in it, change into pupae, then later in the year in the warmer months they evolve into moths.