Processionary caterpillars on the Costa Blanca
A warning to dog owners
Advice from your local vets in Javea
If you live on the Costa Blanca or visit during the spring time or earlier in mild winters, you might have heard about the processionary caterpillar.
These creatures have caused the death of many dogs and other animals and have made their presence felt amongst their owners too.
The pine processionary moth flies around May to July and only lives for about one day during which time it must mate and lay its eggs in the foliage of a pine tree normally a younger tree.
Once they have hatched they begin to build the white cotton-wool like nest, this normally happens in the Spring time.
At this point, the caterpillars (procesionaria del pino) make their way to the ground in a long chain searching for the next place in their life cycle. This behaviour gives them the name of the ‘processionary caterpillar’. You can recognise them by their distinctive orange-brown colour and blue bands.
Eventually they will disperse to burrow just below the ground where they will pupate. Before this happens they can be a danger to humans and other mammals. It is the hairs of the caterpillars that can cause problems. When touched they cause a nasty rash that can cause respiratory problems. They are particularly toxic for children and animals.
If the caterpillar feels threatened it can eject its hairs which act a little like harpoons and can penetrate or irritate any exposed skin. Dogs are particularly susceptible as they will pick up the hairs on their paws and then lick them as they start to itch. This then leads to the hairs being transferred on to the animal’s tongue and can result in itching, swelling, vomiting and even death.
What you should do if you find them
If you become aware of the caterpillars then you should inform the owners of the land if possible, and they should be removed. In some areas the council will remove them but where this isn’t the case you should engage a specialist. You should not attempt to move them yourself as it is a job for an expert.
If you do touch one and become itchy you should consult a doctor. The rashes can be very painful and irritating and can last for a few weeks.
If your pet is infected you can usually tell because there will be small white spots in the mouth and on the tongue and the animal will become distressed and possibly drool. If they remain untreated, animals can die as the tongue will swell and in some cases has to be cut or amputated. If you know your pet has been affected then you should go to the vets immediately, where they will probably be given a cortisone injection.
You should also be careful of any nests the caterpillars have left in the trees. These will also contain some of the hairs that the larvae have left behind. You should not try to cut down the nests or burn them yourself as the hairs can become airborne.
For information on a local vet click the link http://www.costablancaguides.com/listing/minina-kanina-veterinary-centre-javea/