The scourge of kids and pets has returned with force to Spanish population centres earlier than expected this year, alarming health experts.
Systematic steps should be taken to reduce the harmful effects of the pine processionary caterpillar on people and animals, Spain’s national association of environmental health companies (Anecpla) has urged.
A familiar if sinister sight, the long caravan of back-to-back hairy caterpillars stretching into the bushes can seem irresistible to household pets and young children.
Anecpla General Director Jorge Galván, warned: “Minimal contact with this species can cause everything from dermatitis to eye injuries, hives and allergic reactions and even death in certain cases.”
Rising temperatures and low rainfall are causing the first specimens of processionary caterpillars to appear well before they usually do in late spring, as last happened in 2020.
The only treatment available is biocidal chemicals, which are expensive and must be applied by specialist professionals.
The creepy-crawly has around 500,000 hairs on its body that act as poisoned darts when they feel threatened.
The caterpillars are extremely dangerous, especially for children and domestic animals.
Contact with dogs can lead to swelling, itching, and salivation, while ingesting the toxin can cause necrosis of the tongue or throat.
Anecpla stressed that dog owners need to be extra vigilant to prevent their inquisitive pooches from sniffing or touching the caterpillars.