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Processionary Caterpillars


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Arrived in France two weeks ago and after a week developed a very severe hive-type rash all over arms, neck etc. Very itchy at various times and unsightly. Then my dog became ill. He is older and at first I put it down to a mini stroke. He eventually picked up after a couple of days but I'm keeping a close eye on him. I have a couple of small pine trees in my garden and there are around 4 nests of these creatures. I now know they wreak havoc and have read previous threads to try to find out what to do about them. The dangers of trying to remove them and risk spreading the hairs even further are highlighted. I've got two questions really. Firstly, I think I should fell the trees in question, but don't know anyone suitably experienced/qualified. And secondly, I am trying to keep my dog away from the areas in question, but are there any treatments which can help protect him whilst we are here? I know he hasn't physically touched a caterpillar but the hairs are airborne and both he and I have been affected. Obviously I am more concerned about him as the effects I read about (necrosis of the tongue etc) are terrible. Any advice would be gratefully received.
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No. Only one of them is fairly low, also, both trees have reasonably spindly trunks so I wouldn't feel safe, particularly as the ground is uneven too. There is also the matter (apparently) of not disturbing the nest at all, otherwise all those pesky hairs will do even more damage. A flame thrower with a shrink wrap option might do the trick but..... damned if I can find one!
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[quote user="virginia.c"]Only one of them is fairly low, also, both trees have reasonably spindly trunks so I wouldn't feel safe, particularly as the ground is uneven too. [/quote]

We usually have at least one nest per year in one of our pine trees. As it is a tall tree, and the nest will usually be in the topmost branches, my OH cuts down the offending branch with one of these:

tree pruners

He manages to get the nest to drop onto an opened out bin liner, wraps the nest up then burns the lot on our veg patch. The pruners look fearsome but are really easy to use when you get the hang of it - even I can do it and I have arthritis so have weak wrist joints. We bought ours here in France after borrowing one from our neighbours the first time it happened.

Sorry the link is Amazon US, but it was the best photo I could find.

Sue

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You don't say where you are in France but the processionary caterpillars are not out and about in 24 yet.

They all come out at about the same and drop in a heap on the ground and can easily be seen. They cause no problems unless touched or attacked. They do not shed hairs for no reason.

They pose little threat to humans and animals unless you want to harm them. They are a food source for birds.

If you want rid of them why not wait till they fall from the nest and pick them up in a plastic bag and take them to another location.

Many other caterpillars can cause skin irritation but please don't go killing caterpillars even the processionary caterpillar produces a lovely moth which again is food for birds.

If you kill everything that has a potential danger in your garden you will soon wonder why there is no wildlife to enjoy.

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[quote user="Dog"]

They pose little threat to humans and animals unless you want to harm them. They are a food source for birds.

If you kill everything that has a potential danger in your garden you will soon wonder why there is no wildlife to enjoy.[/quote]

Sorry but I really do have to disagree with Dog on this; and this site tends to agree with my thoughts:

http://www.lost-in-france.com/living-in-france/pets/805-processionary-caterpillars

Though OH and I have not found it necessary to call in the experts to de-tree the resultant nests; but that is probably because we are very aware that one of our trees is susceptible so we keep an eye on the tree for resultant infestation and treat it early.  And because we have been told often by our friends here of the possible consequences for animals if the nests are not destroyed.

Sue

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You are more than welcome to disagree it would seem a scare story is always of more interest.

These creatures have been about for many thousands of years and strangely there are many humans still here.

 

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Virginia, I've come across processionary caterpillars in the past, and a friend and the family cat were ill because of them. Do you know of Planete Passion, started by Chris from this forum? It's a very interesting wildlife website with some people who know so much! Vist the site, maybe you'll get some help there for this problem.

http://planetepassion.freeforums.org/index.php

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Many thanks for all the useful and helpful tips. I am in 24 and was watching a long chain of these creatures three days ago so they are most definitely out and about. The rash I have is really quite bad. More importantly though, my dog is a bit better but I am watching out for him. Garden Girl, thanks for the lopper idea, someone is coming over on Monday with one and is going to try the bin bag solution though Im not sure he realises how high some of them are. I have looked at Planet Passion quite a few times over the past couple of years - it's a great site. Everything I have read though says how dangerous these things are to dogs and, given what has gone on over the last week I see no reason to disagree. I have three bird boxes in the offending trees and all three are active so I'm loathe to remove the trees completely as its taken a long time to encourage birds into the garden. Let's hope Monday's efforts help the situation and thanks again to all those who have offered advice.
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In the Jardin Massey in the middle of Tarbes they have put special ring thingies around the infected trees about 3 mtrs up. This is connected to a bag with something in it, I assume, to kill the beasties as they descend.

I'm not really one for killing things but I guess the park authorities have to watch out for the public a bit more than if you have them in your back garden. Sorry I can't be more specific about what the rings are.
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[quote user="crazyfrog"]In the Jardin Massey in the middle of Tarbes they have put special ring thingies around the infected trees about 3 mtrs up. This is connected to a bag with something in it, I assume, to kill the beasties as they descend. I'm not really one for killing things but I guess the park authorities have to watch out for the public a bit more than if you have them in your back garden. Sorry I can't be more specific about what the rings are.[/quote]

If this search link comes out, there are several different ways of trapping them:

Pièges Chenille Processionnaire

 

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Dog is barking up the wrong tree. The caterpillars do not "fall in a lump to the ground"; they crawl down the trunk when the temperature is right, and tunnel into the ground to pupate. Here in Herault they have been down for about 3 weeks. There are easy ways to catch them - putting glue-bands around the tree is a good one - but the problem is that the nest which remains is full of their broken-off spines and other stuff (the technical name is "frass") and, as Virginia C has discovered, this floats down and continues to irritate for months afterwards. The only real solution, I'm afraid, is to have the tree taken down. You need an arboriste/ grimpeur/elageur. Even if you managed to get rid of the nests and all the caterpillars, the parent moths can fly up to several kilometres in search of pines to lay their eggs, so your trees would still be vulnerable for the following year. We had this problem, and in the end we moved house. It was that bad.
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I cut down and burned mine a couple of weeks ago. It was about 5 metres high and I cut down one branch at a time starting at the bottom working up. It may have been a coincidence but one of my chickens suddenly became ill and died the next day. I think she may have eaten a caterpillar as I saw a line of them 'escaping'.
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I have come to the same conclusion. Having been to various places searching out the "rings" and talking to the locals, all the advice here is to remove the trees and burn them. As several of you have said, what remains in the nest is dangerous so I will wait until the summer before commencing 'slash and burn'. Fortunately there are only two of these trees in the garden, and it's odd really because they are quite unusual for this immediate locality. My dog is better for the time being but my rash has spread and has caused me real aggravation. I've been to the pharmacy and got various cremes and anti-histamines but none of them have made the slightest difference. Ice cubes in the night have brought some little relief, but it has spread to fingers and wrists and around my face. Back to the UK next week so will be first in the queue at the Docs!
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I don't know about anyone else but I have not seen these things in the UK so I am not sure your doctor would know of them and how to treat the effects so personally I would see a doctor here in France as they are more used to dealing with their effects. You can get a form of necrosis (premature death of cells and living tissue) from them so whilst not wishing to sound alarmist I think I wouldn't wait a week I would visit the doctor now.
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[quote user="virginia.c"]Back to the UK next week ... [/quote]

If I was you then I would get someone to take down and destroy the nests before you leave for the UK. Leaving it till the summer would not, IMHO, be a good idea. Someone local would help you out if you asked - we had offers of help the first time, but my OH wanted to sort it himself, so he did.

We have had no problems at all from the nests we have had in our tree because we remove them as soon as we see them, whilst they are still tiny.

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Thanks for the advice Sue and Quillan. I would be interested to know what you Doctor actually said Quillan? and thank you for asking when you were there, by the way. Re removing the nests Sue, it does seem that now really is not the time to do it because of the danger of spreading what is left in the nests (hairs/excrement principally). Had I known how dangerous these processionaires were back in the autumn when I noticed the first nest I would have had them removed then. I did have someone come and look at them a couple of days ago but we agreed that the position of the trees/height of the nests made it impossible to remove them safely now. I am taking cetirizine 10mg and using Phenergan creme on advice of the local pharmacist.
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I said that I was asking on behalf of a 'friend'. I told him that 'my friend' had a itchy rash. I then said that the rash had spread even though 'my friend' had been to the pharmacy and was given some creams (he asked what they were, I said I didn't know) and anti-histamines. I also mentioned that it had spread to the face, wrists and fingers. It was at this point he said you should see a doctor. Some people, just like animals, can be effected quite badly particularly if it gets in to the respiratory system, what you see on the outside (your skin) can also happen internally, or so he says. Some people, although very few and in extreme cases, have become very ill and needed hospitalisation. With the correct treatment the rash should normally go after 24/48 hours.
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I'm afraid that one year we had the nests shot down from the trees by a local hunter.    Great fun,   great target practice,   but then on the other hand we've got plenty of space.....

We now just co-exist with the blighters,   and have suffered no personal ill effects by putting a bucket on its side in their way and watching 150 of them all pile up inside for subsequent convenient disposal.

I imagine that some people are more allergic than others,   we just wore gloves and thankfully had none of the symptoms described.   

As we value our pine trees we'll just have to - as I say - live with them.....

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My two trees are right by the house, so co-existing is not an option - given my experience and that of my dog's anyhow. The good news is though, that I am on the mend. Doc prescribed the same anti-histamines that the pharmacy had and after two full weeks of really horrible itchy all over rash, it is finally on the way out. I still have lumps all over and some itchy patches, but am no longer waking in the night and having to put ice cubes in tea towels before wrapping them round my arms and neck (attractive though that particular look certainly was). I think the heavy rain has helped to settle down the dusty grass/nest detritus so I've been grateful for that. Anyhow, come the summer/autumn months the two offending trees will unfortutunately be felled, but I can't see a practical, long term solution other than felling.
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