Fascinating to watch, but there’s a big BUT!

We spotted these fellows this week, and whilst at the time I wasn’t 100% sure if they were the dangerous ones we decided to be cautious just in case.

Pine Processionary Larvae

And I am so glad we were. These are the caterpillar of the Pine Processionary Moth. Fascinating to observe but whatever you do don’t touch! The moths are harmless but the caterpillars have a rather nasty form of defence. Their tiny hairs, which drop off, are harmful to humans and mammals, and only a few birds are able to eat them. The hairs can cause anything from mild skin inflammation to a major allergic reaction.

A line of fully grown caterpillars

Dogs have been known to lose their tongues after attempting to remove the hairs from their paws. So if you or your dog touch them the advice is to seek medical and/or veterinary help as fast as you can.

And it is not just the hairs which are the problem. The caterpillars are also an economic pest because of their diet and social behaviour. At the start of their development the caterpillars lay down a pheromone trail as they advance over the branches of the host tree to a feeding site. Other caterpillars will always choose to follow a trail, which results in large numbers congregating at feeding sites. They can completely defoliate trees if large quantities are present

Later on, when they are fully grown they abandon the pine trees in search of pupation sites. In early spring as many as three hundred caterpillars may seen travelling long distances looking for soft soil in which to bury themselves and form cocoons. It was this behaviour we were observed this week.


PS They nest in large numbers too, so maybe not advisable to camp under pine trees! And don’t forget to also avoid the Castor Oil plant!

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

27 thoughts

  1. Ohhh no! I live in front of a row of pine trees and last year there were a bunch of these in our garden. Sometimes I see them on the road too, travelling together like this. Our dog has grown enough to know not to mess with everything that crawls, luckily. But still, lose its tongue?? Damn!

    1. Apparently it happened to someone’s dog when he was attempting to remove the hairs from his paw and they got stuck in his tongue. I presume the delay from that happening and the owners seeing it/seeking help was why it lost its tongue. Poor thing πŸ˜•
      As you know about it at least you can keep your dog out of garden when the caterpillars are on move.

  2. They remind me of the ones we called woolly bears when I was little, who would think such a little thing could be so dangerous, but then mosquitos kill.

  3. I have the same or similar caterpillar here. My girls enjoyed using a stick guide the lead caterpillar to the end and watch them walk in a circle for a while πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

  4. Thanks for the information, Becky. I wouldn’t pick up anything hairy or snakelike for all the coffee in Brazil, but my dog might, so it’s important we all know this. Now you have a new hat to wear!

  5. Oh yuck, what horrible creatures πŸ™ They’ve been mentioned on the camping forum by people who camp abroad but I’ve never seen any on my holidays in Italy – looking at that video I wouldn’t want to either!

    1. I was going to share a lovely walk today, but after reading up about these thought far far more sensible to alert everyone as we’re seeing them all over at present.

  6. Really fascinating – never heard of them. I am glad Totti was not there…he would for sure have used his curious nose on them…Glad you did not touch them!

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