With their extremely volatile stinging hairs, processionary caterpillars are not safe for humans and animals. This is also the reason why a decree was just published on April 27 on the official newspaper, to add them to the list of species whose proliferation is harmful to human health. If you’re unlucky enough to have them in your garden, here are our tips for getting rid of them organically and responding to contact.
Who are these processionary caterpillars?
Since the 2000s, processionary caterpillars have spread throughout France. There are two types, both equally dangerous to human and animal health.
The oak processionary caterpillar †Thaumetopoea processionea) which occurs mainly in the northeastern part of France and which rages from April to July and the pine processionary caterpillar †Thaumetopoea pityocampa) more present in the south and whose devastation is felt between January and May.
What damage can they do?
Both are covered with tiny stinging hairs that cause strong reactions upon direct contact. But the evil of the processionary caterpillar doesn’t end there, as these hairs also tend to be extremely volatile. Blowed by the wind, they can wreak havoc at a distance when they come into contact with the skin or mucous membranes (eye, mouth, nose).
They then cause severe itching, conjunctivitis, sneezing, sore throat and even breathing difficulties. For dogs and cats, eating caterpillars can even cause tongue necrosis or worse, death. Finally, according to ANSES (the National Food Safety Agency), their spread can also lead to a “ weakening of trees †
How to avoid contact with processionary caterpillars?
ANSES warns on its website about the dangers of contact with processionary caterpillars. To guard against this, it describes a number of preventive measures:
- Do not approach or touch the caterpillars or their nests, especially for children
- Stay away from trees with nests
- Wear long clothes when walking in the forest or near infested trees
- Do not rub your eyes during or after a walk
- Wash fruits and vegetables in your garden thoroughly in case of a nearby infestation
- Avoid drying wax next to affected trees
How to respond to contact?
Upon contact, the National Health Security Agency recommends a quick shower, change of clothes and washing at 60°C. In case of respiratory distress, it is recommended to call 15 or consult the emergency room. If you noticed the person during the contact, do not hesitate to take a picture of him to show him to specialists who can help you identify him with certainty.
Finally, if your pet has been in direct contact with a processionary caterpillar, consult a veterinarian or call a veterinary poison control center (Western Animal and Environmental Poison Center and National Veterinary Toxicological Information Center).
How to get off it safely?
If you are unlucky enough to have washed away a nest of processionary caterpillars in your garden, don’t panic, there are natural and effective solutions.
- Before embarking on this commando operation, take your precautions by wearing long clothes, covering your hair and eyes with goggles to avoid contact with flown hair.
- Then, in a spray bottle, mix 10% black soap and water. This mixture makes it possible to stick their hairs and prevent them from flying away.
- Spray on the colony.
- Make sure to pick up the insects with gloves or tongs so that the animals don’t hurt themselves by sniffing them.
Did you like this solution? Also discover this sooty fungus treatment to naturally treat a plant with blackened leaves.