Last week we spotted bunches of webbed nests in the pine nut trees, and immediately went on alert as we knew they were harbouring the larvae of the Pine Processionary Moth. The larvae overwinter in these nests, leaving at night to forage on the needles. If there are enough caterpillars they can easily defoliate a tree, and consequently are considered a major economic pest in southern Europe.
Apparently the nest has no openings, so caterpillars force themselves through the layers of the shelter and their waste (frass) is that mess accumulating at the bottom of the nest. However their feeding behaviour is not what worries us, it is their hairs.
The hairs can cause anything from mild skin inflammation to a major allergic reaction, and you might not even realise you have had contact until it is too late as the hairs easily drop off on the ground as they move. And they move lots, and not just in the trees. From this time of year until early spring long processions of them, sometimes up to three hundred individuals, travel on the ground. They are heading for soft ground to bury themselves for the pupal stage of their development. Click here for a previous post when I videoed a procession of around fifty. It is quite extraordinary.
My tip of the season – don’t let your pets or children near the caterpillars, don’t camp under pine trees and don’t walk barefoot near pine trees in southern Europe either!
We found similar catterpilars in one of the bushes in my garden and they just about destroyed it!
Yikes! Incredible much they eat.
Ooh, I feel all scratchy just reading that!
Don’t worry, no hairs via Internet (yet!!)
What very unpleasant creatures they are – best avoided at all costs.
I’ve not heard of anything like that before. Thanks for expanding my brian a little bit. Love your photos too.
Thanks Cee. We’ve now spotted them in the trees opposite apartments, so going to be extra careful if I walk that side!
We have Oak Processionary Spinners in Germany. They are equally as bad. 🙁
ooh yes have heard of those. Think those are the ones that have somehow now appeared in England. Not good 🙁
They certainly are not, and just discovered we have them opposite apartment!
oh indeed – was a hop, skip and a jump when I walked across there on Monday!!
I’ll try not to…..nasty buggers
Very nasty. Think all hairy larvae are best avoided!
Quite right. I’m glad I didn’t have to discover the hard way just what a danger these creatures represent: https://margaret21.com/2011/03/25/a-walk-with-the-pine-processionary-caterpillars/
That’s an interesting post.
They look so endearing. But definitely best avoided.
I’ll be happy when they turn into harmless moths, but we’ve not been troubled so far. You just need to keep your eyes open around pine trees.
You certainly do, we only noticed at weekend they’re on the trees opposite apartments!
Sounds like you need hobnailed boots to go out!
Ooh just spotted this wasn’t published yesterday. Sorry major Internet challenges as well as hairy larvae 🐛🐛
Great post – like you we were fascinated when we saw them proceeding but so glad we had the hiking boots on, and no pets or children with us. Their defence mechanism is terrifying!
And keep an eye on any dogs or children in sight!
Exactly! And why I’ve written the post this week, Tabitha arrives Monday.
Hooray! Have a great time.