The processionary moth invasion


The Thaumetopoea pityocampa, also known as processionary moth, have become a subject of concern due their uncontrolled proliferation. Not only do they jeopardize the health of trees but they also have an impact on human health.

Pine processionary moths are native to North Africa, parts of the Middle East and to southern Europe, now extending to Hungary, Switzerland and the center of France. The caterpillars consume large quantities of needles of foliage, reducing the availability of resources for other organisms. This can also severely defoliate the trees, weakening them and making them more vulnerable to attacks by pests or diseases as well as to bad environmental conditions.

Beyond its ecological impact, the processionary moth infestation poses risks to human health. The caterpillars have thousands of tiny hairs that contain an urticating protein called thaumetopoein. These venomous hairs can cause allergic reactions and skin irritations upon contact with people or animals. Inhaling the tiny hairs, which can become airborne, may lead to respiratory problems and, painful eye and throat irritations.

Managing the processionary moth invasion is critical and requires a multi-faceted approach. Different measures such as physical destruction of nests and treatment of the ground with insecticides are taken to regulate their population and reduce human and animal exposure risks. Promoting knowledge about the caterpillar's appearance, behaviors, and potential hazards can empower individuals to take necessary precautions.