The processional caterpillar

…no this isn’t the title of a children’s story but a REAL thing!

The Pine Processionary (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) is a moth of the family Thaumetopoeidae. It is an abundant species found in pine woods in central and southern Europe and an important economic pest. The species are notable for the behaviour of its caterpillar larvae, which develop in tent-like nests high in pine trees and travel in nose-to-tail columns, protected by their severely irritating and poisonous hairs.

A nest in a pine tree, immediately outside my house!

A nest in a pine tree, immediately outside my house!

The caterpillars should never be handled as the hairs on their bodies cause extreme irritation to the skin and have the form of harpoons or barbs. These can penetrate and irritate all areas of exposed skin with an urticating protein and can promote an anaphylactic shock in susceptible individuals on subsequent exposure to the hairs… nasty things! They have also been known to fall out of trees onto passers-by so beware!!!!

Processional caterpillar

Processional caterpillars

Here is a short video made by a friend about these animals!

Video courtesy of Gordon Maddock

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