Stinging caterpillars

News Excerpt: 

Weeks after Paris' bed bug hysteria, stinging caterpillars are making their way into the French capital.

  • Stinging caterpillars are named because of the single-file flight pattern, and have arrived three months earlier than the timing due to the exceptionally mild temperatures.

About Sting Caterpillars:

  • Most stinging caterpillars belong to the insect family known as flannel moths. 
    • Flannel moths get their name from the flannel-like appearance of the wings of the adult, which are clothed with loose scales mixed with long hairs.
  • The immature stages of flannel moths are caterpillars which are clothed with fine hairs and venomous spines. 
  • The insects can grow up to 4 cm (1.6 in) in length, live in groups and construct silk nests on colonized pine and oak trees.
  • Pine processionary caterpillars undergo a dramatic transformation into chrysalis by burrowing themselves in the ground during their last larval stages as they descend along the stem.

How are they creating problems for everyone?

  • Although these caterpillars do not bite, their hair acts as "microscopic needles or harpoons" that detach from their bodies when they feel threatened or sense danger and travel with the wind.
  • A toxic protein found in the hair can result in skin blisters and a range of allergic responses. 
  • The caterpillars and their hair can turn out to be extremely fatal for pets and toddlers who inadvertently can put these in their mouths.
  • In the year 2022, the government declared processionary caterpillars as hazardous to human health.

Measure to be taken:

  • These caterpillars can be controlled when they become abundant by spraying with a residual pesticide such as permethrin, cyfluthrin or similar sprays labelled for control of caterpillars on ornamental plants. 
  • In some cases, such as on school playgrounds, the best solution may be educating students and teachers about the caterpillars and the importance of not touching them with bare hands.

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