To see them they look like nice millipedes in Indian row forming a sort of “procession” from which it takes its name but flying over the appearance these insects are very dangerous for humans and animals, if touched can cause dermatitis, conjunctivitis, allergic reactions and in some cases anaphylactic shock.
The appearance of the pine processionary usually occurs in spring, in the early days of March come out of their nests and begin to feed on the leaves, around May begin to descend from the plants along the trunk to bury a few inches deep until they become chrysalis.
Ecosistem fights the pine processionary today, as being still in the larval state is a danger for humans and animals as well as for the trees that host them.
The pine processionary is composed of many stinging hairs that if touched release into the air in the form of defense, these hairs contain histamine, a very poisonous substance, which in contact with the body is immediately injected causing skin reactions, mucous membranes, eyes and airways.
The fight against the pine processionary is made compulsory by law by the various public administrations.
What Damage Can The Pine Processionary Cause?
The pine processionary is dangerous not only for the trees but, above all, for the health of the man who unfortunately comes into contact with them.
Learning to recognize it and stay away from it is very important.
The defoliating larvae of the pine processionary mainly attack pine trees, but also larches or firs, forming unmistakable and voluminous nests.
They measure about 30-40 mm when adult, are hairy, with black head and greyish body on the back, with ochre shades on the belly.
The back has a thick mantle of reddish-brownish hairs which give the larva a reddish rusty coloration.
The adult butterflies of the processionary have a wingspan of about 30/40 mm and are greyish in color.
They have brownish transversal striae, similar to the bark of the plants they attack and on which they camouflage very well.
They usually build their nests, on the tip of the trees, or in intersections of lateral branches.
From there they come out in early spring, starting to feed on the leaves.
At the end of May, they are ripe and come down from the plants along the trunk, moving in typical processions and moving on the ground where they are buried at a few cm depth.
At the beginning of summer, they transform in butterflies till the end of July, in this period, the mating and the laying phase of the eggs begins.
At the end of summer, with the approach of the cold period, they begin to build more compact nests to overcome the winter until spring.
The pine processionary produces more damage when it is at the larval stage.
The young larvae attack the leaves, which are needle-shaped, leaving after their attack only the thread corresponding to the central rib of the pine needle.
This necrotizes and dries up and is then used by the larvae to strengthen the nest.
Adult larvae are even more harmful as they eat the leaves completely, with all the needles.
They can cause disastrous effects if the attack is massive, moreover, if it lasts for years, the destiny of the tree is the total drying up, and therefore the death.
As far as the damage they can cause to man is concerned, it is good to know that the hairs that cover the upper part of the larva,
are highly urticating because they contain histamine, a very poisonous substance.
They are released by the larvae themselves as a defence, usually they detach under the action of the wind, or they may fall from the nests.
The reactions on humans are different depending on the extent and the area affected, in case of:
- Contact with the skin, may cause a rash.
- Inhalation may cause irritation of the respiratory tract.
- Ingestion, may cause inflammation of mucous membranes and intestines.
- Eye contact, may cause conjunctivitis.
It is strongly advised not to use do-it-yourself methods, it is better to consult experts.
Contact Ecosistem, through the use of specific products and machinery can help you with the infestation.