Beware the hairy caterpillars!

This week we had just commenced a short stroll in the very popular São Lourenço area when I spotted nests of one of the most dangerous and destructive creatures here in the Algarve – the pine processionary caterpillar (Thaumetopoea pityocampa).

Fortunately the larvae (caterpillars) in this nest looked quite small and so are unlikely to be commencing their treks in search of pupation sites just yet. However they were active and so this pine tree may not have a long future ahead of it. Thaumetopoea pityocampa caterpillars can completely defoliate trees if large quantities are present

A few yards further on we discovered even more hairy larvae. However these were a different colour, and they were on the cistus rather than pines.

Larvae of the Thaumetopoea herculeana

It took me a while to discover their scientific name – Thaumetopoea herculeana as they are typically photographed in the final larvae stages when their hairs/tufts are very yellow green rather than in these early stages of blueish grey. I think only a couple in my photographs have a hint of the yellow green.

And even once I had their scientific name I wasn’t able to find out much more than the fact they are native to the Iberian peninsular. They don’t have a common name and most of the information is on the other processionary moths. However everything I did find, does indicate that whilst like all processionary larvae they carry the irritant in their hairs, these larvae are not as toxic. Although I am not going to risk getting any closer, especially as none of the birds were tucking in!

As you can see like the pine processionary they are very destructive to their host plants (Cistus, Erodium and Helianthemum) and also like to congregate in large numbers and move in a continuous line. MrB asked me about the moth and I’m sure others are curious too, so for pictures of the moth do check out this site. I’ll be back with another nature post soon as noticed I’ve not shared many recently.

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It's a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, reading, blogging, and best of all spending time with family, friends & the cat!

29 thoughts on “Beware the hairy caterpillars!

  1. Thanks Becky. Are they still there right now (are you based there)? I’ve had mixed reports of “February only” to “December to May”!!

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    1. I have not seen them on the paths, but there are still nests in the trees . . . I think the months to be wary are probably February through May, they certainly not limited to February as we have seen them in previous years until late April.

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      1. Quite. I had Sawfly on my hazel a couple of years ago and they had stripped a lot of leaves completely. Horrid things too as they develop into flies not butterflies!

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