The dreaded pro­ces­sion

Ad­vice on keep­ing the pro­ces­sion­ary cater­pil­lar away from your gar­den and pets

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Feature - Slid­dell@cb­

By Shel­ley Lid­dell IF YOU are lucky enough to have pine trees in or near your gar­den, then it’s likely that at some point you would have to deal with a pro­ces­sion­ary cater­pil­lar nest, or see the cater­pil­lars treck sin­gle file across ac­cross the ground.

To be able to elim­i­nate them, it helps to have more in­for­ma­tion about them, so read on…

Cater­pil­lar life cy­cle The pro­ces­sion­ary cater­pil­lar is part of the moth fam­ily. Dur­ing its short life as a cater­pil­lar it passes through five stages of growth, start­ing at stage one (26mm) and end­ing at stage five (25-40mm).

It shows its typ­i­cal ap­pear­ance of abun­dant brown spiky hairs and or­ange spots when it reaches stage three dur­ing au­tumn and win­ter; this is when they form the typ­i­cal white nests that can be seen in the pine trees.

It is now, at the end of win­ter and be­gin­ning of spring, that they de­scend from their nests and form their char­ac­ter­is­tic march, head to tail, be­fore bury­ing them­selves in the earth to emerge as a moth dur­ing the sum­mer months. The moths mate, lay their eggs and around a month and a half later the cater­pil­lars are born.

Meth­ods of con­trol The best way to avoid them at home are:

Elim­i­nat­ing eggs. It's pos­si­ble to re­move the eggs man­u­ally dur­ing Au­gust, Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber from small trees be­fore the cater­pil­lars are born.

Elim­i­nat­ing nests from Novem­ber to March. Cut the branch with the nest, in­tro­duce into a plas­tic bag and dis­pose of it. Plat­forms or ex­tend­ing prun­ing shears can be used for larger trees. Pro­tec­tive cloth­ing should be used and per­mis­sion ob­tained from the town hall if the nests are burnt.

Phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers in or around the tree to stop the cater­pil­lars reach­ing the ground from De­cem­ber to end of April.

En­cour­age birds and bats to nest in the tree by hang­ing nest­ing boxes, as they are the cater­pil­lar’s' nat­u­ral preda­tor. This can be done all year round.

Use a pheromone trap in the sum­mer to trap male moths. These are in­stalled dur­ing the moths' mat­ing sea­son, from June to Oc­to­ber. They can be ob­tained from most agri­cul­tural as­so­ci­a­tion ‘co­op­er­a­ti­vas’, gar­den cen­tres or farm an­i­mal feed shops.

There is a pes­ti­cide Di­fluben­zuron that can be ap­plied from Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber that will kill them off at stages 1-3 of their growth. A mi­cro­bi­o­log­i­cal in­sec­ti­cide (Bacil­lus thuringien­sis kurstaki) can also be used at the same stages. Only peo­ple in pos­ses­sion of the ap­pro­pri­ate li­cence to use these in­sec­ti­cides can pur­chase them.

The aim is to avoid them com­ing into con­tact with peo­ple and pets, but not to to­tally erad­i­cate them, as few peo­ple re­alise that they are a vi­tal part of the area's ecosys­tems, be­ing an im­por­tant food source for birds and bats…

Al­though pine trees af­fected by them turn brown and look as if they are dy­ing off, they are ac­tu­ally un­harmed and will sprout their full green­ery again come next spring.

Dan­ger­ous to pets and hu­mans They are ex­tremely dan­ger­ous to dogs, and can cause death in some cases. Keep dogs away from

cater­pil­lars It is the cater­pil­lar's hairs that cause the dam­age, as they are ex­tremely ir­ri­tat­ing. If a dog swal­lows or in­hales hair they can die due to their air­ways swelling to the point that they are ob­structed.

Cater­pil­lars lose their hair as they move and they can be COSTA NEWS, March 16-22, 2018 blown around in the wind, af­fect­ing hu­mans and dogs alike

A few tips if you have dogs:

Avoid walk­ing near pine trees from the end of win­ter to the mid­dle of spring.

If you have no choice but to walk your dog near pine trees with nests, make sure your dog wears a muz­zle. Avoid walk­ing in the area at night, as this is when the cater­pil­lars are most ac­tive. Make sure you wear long sleeves and trousers.

In­form lo­cal au­thor­i­ties if you see cater­pil­lars in pub­lic ar­eas, dog parks, etc. Alert your neigh­bours and use so­cial me­dia to warn peo­ple.

Re­move nests from your gar­den as de­scribed in this ar­ti­cle.

Symp­toms in pets Pets can be af­fected in any part of their bod­ies, but it’s usu­ally the mouth area that comes into con­tact with the cater­pil­lar or their hair. The first symp­toms in­clude:

In­tense itch­ing. The dog might be paw­ing at his face if his eyes have been in con­tact with hairs

Swollen head, muz­zle, eye­lids, tongue and/or throat

Ex­ces­sive sali­va­tion and pant­ing Ir­ri­tated skin Vom­it­ing. If your dog presents these symp­toms, flush the af­fected area with saline solution, fizzy wa­ter or tap wa­ter with­out rub­bing and take him to the vet im­me­di­ately. In some cases the dog can die due to ana­phy­lac­tic shock and may end up los­ing part of his tongue due to necro­sis.

If you live in a re­mote area or do a lot of moun­tain walk­ing with your dog, ask your vet for a pre­scrip­tion of Ur­ba­son (Methyl­pred­nisolone) and how to use it. Ur­ba­son is a fast-act­ing cor­ti­cos­te­riod, and it could keep your dog alive long enough for you to get to the vet.

Symp­toms in peo­ple Adults and chil­dren who are al­ler­gic to the cater­pil­lars should take spe­cial care over the next few months, as they are com­ing out of their nests look­ing for food.

Hu­mans are usu­ally af­fected ei­ther by di­rect con­tact with the cater­pil­lar or by their hairs float­ing in the air. Symp­toms are se­vere itch­ing on un­cov­ered ar­eas like arms and neck, un­less they are al­ler­gic to the hairs, in which case they could go into ana­phy­lac­tic shock.

It is im­por­tant not to rub the area, and even more im­por­tant not to rub your eyes, as the hairs can trans­fer to your eyes off your fin­gers.

Again, wash the area with saline solution. Cold wa­ter can also be used.

Any over-the-counter an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory med­i­ca­tion can be used, and if the itch­ing does not sub­side, visit your doc­tor, who will pre­scribe an ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment. Usu­ally the itch­ing lasts a max­i­mum of 24 hours.

Some peo­ple can suf­fer a se­vere al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to the cater­pil­lars, so it’s ad­vis­able to cover up with long sleeves and a scarf and pro­tec­tive glasses if you go moun­tain walk­ing in pine forests.

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