Watch out… it’s that time of year when some very irritating creatures are on the move.

As beautiful as Fethiye’s forests are, many of the pine trees are festooned with white cocoons hanging from their branches.

processionary caterpillar, or Thaumetopoea pityocampa
processionary caterpillar, or Thaumetopoea pityocampa

These pouch-like bundles of silken threads are home to the highly destructive processionary caterpillar, or Thaumetopoea pityocampa.

Mediterranean peril

These caterpillars responsible for the slow death of many pine trees in Turkey and other parts of southern Europe.

Nest of processionary caterpillars, or Thaumetopoea pityocampa.
Nest of processionary caterpillars, or Thaumetopoea pityocampa.

But they can also result in some very unpleasant reactions for any unfortunate animal or human that comes into contact with them.

Irritating springtime creatures

Now that spring is on the way and the days are becoming warmer, these ‘irritating creatures’ are on the move, so be warned.

On the move
On the move

Although this insect is controlled to some extent by natural predators that attack the moth at different stages of its life cycle, this caterpillar stage has long been a serious pest for Turkey’s

coniferous forests and ever year presents a potentially dangerous situation for the humans and dogs that like to walk in them.

Be careful walking in the forests at this time of year
Be careful walking in the forests at this time of year

It is the moths of the Thaumetopoeidae family that lay their eggs on the branches of pine trees. After hatching, the larvae eat pine needles, creating the familiar silky cones or cocoons in which they live.

Usually the caterpillars emerge fully formed between the end of February and April, depending on weather conditions.

Caterpillar processions

When the time is right, the caterpillars leave their nests en-masse and move down the trunk in their characteristic procession.

It is during this period that people need to be cautious, particularly if they are pet owners. Every attempt should be made to keep dogs away from these caterpillars.

Dogs can suffer a pain allergic reaction to these caterpillars
Dogs can suffer a pain allergic reaction to these caterpillars

The hairs of the caterpillar cause severe irritation to the skin.

Allergic reactions for humans and pets

Furthermore, a threatened or stressed caterpillar can also propel these hairs, penetrating and irritating the exposed skin of any unsuspecting human or animal.

"Stressed caterpillars can propel these hairs, penetrating and irritating the exposed skin of any unsuspecting human or animal."
“Stressed caterpillars can propel these hairs, penetrating and irritating the exposed skin of any unsuspecting human or animal.”

Severe allergic reactions are not uncommon in susceptible individuals and particularly in dogs. It is easy to detect that a dog has been contaminated as it has severe salivation, a painful nose and its tongue can become very swollen. In these circumstances veterinary treatment should be sought without delay.

Turkey’s Forestry Ministry are working on getting rid of this irritating annual pest. For more information visit their website.

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