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  • Writer's pictureMark Tullett

Beware creepy crawlies

It's around this time of year that creepy crawlies come out of hiding, or start to pupate, or whatever they do in springtime.

A particularly nasty one that appears around this time of year, and especially in areas with pine trees is the Pine processionary caterpillar. (Thaumetopoea Pityocampa). The eggs are laid in candyfloss-like nests in pine trees where they remain during the cold winter months.

As the temperature starts to rise with the approach of spring, the caterpillars hatch and drop to the ground to search for food. Yhey can easily be spotted moving head to tail in a procession to form the conspicuous snake-like lines for which they are named.

They can pose a major risk to both children and adults, causing dermatitis, eye damage and severe allergic reactions. In pets, particularly dogs, they can cause breathing difficulties, vomiting and foaming at the mouth. In extreme cases they can even be fatal. There have been cases where a dog has simply got a hair on its paw, which had irritated it making it lick its paw, and when the poison gets into the dog's throat it can cause suffocation. I found out about this first hand when one of our dogs was unlucky enough to get a hair in her mouth but lucky enough that our vet knew exactly what you do when I rushed into his clinic in a panic.

These caterpillars are covered in barbed hairs that are covered in a poison. They can shoot these hairs like arrows when they feel threatened.

However there is no need for panic as all you need to do is stay away from them. The local council also Somewhere in local parks etc, that could be affected, removing the risk. Some suggest killing them by treading on them or using large stones to crush them. I prefer to think it more humane to just leave them alone, after all they were here before us, and pose no risk if we don't go near them.

If you do touch one and feel itchy, you should consult a doctor – rashes can be very irritating and can last for a few weeks.

If they survive the caterpillar stage they become moths of the same name and the cycle begins anew.

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