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Pine processionary caterpillar time soon again!!


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Blimey it is getting close again to the time when our lovely (???) little caterpillars will be in the pine trees again.

ChrisPP, have you ever heard of the microbial insecticide called bacillus thruingiensis? One strian appears to attack only caterpillars by disrupting their gut lining? It seems to be good against pine processionary caterpillars if it's used on their food trees? Not much else eats the needles, so relatively safe for other butterflies and moths.

What do you think please???

For anyone that has not heard of these little perishers please have a look at http://web.cortland.edu/fitzgerald/PineProcessionary.html .

They are not a nice thing to have anywhere near your garden and there seem to be LOTS of them around. If you have seen a pine tree that looks as if most of the needles have been stripped from it then these have probably done the damage! They are dangerous to mamals.

Sorry, John's favorite hate in the approaching autumn!!

 

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Thank you Chris, I wondered about any miracle cure?

I would think that it would be good for these as they only inhabit certain types of pine. I was also under the impression that they are very weak fliers and can't get much above 6 to  8 feet high and that is the level in the pines that they lay their eggs. The link that I gave has a good photo of their eggs on a pine needle. If you see them just pull the needle off and crush it under foot.

As far as the 'Bt' is concerned I have not heard of it before and wondered if it is the 'magic bullet' for these little devils if used in the correct way?

These things do cause the death of a boat load of trees. Not just in France. Just google them for Cyprus, Italy or France. they are causing a tremendous amount of damage. In Spain some of the cities are spending a small fortune inoculating all the trees in the cities to get rid of them. They devistate thousnds of hectatres of pine woodland every year at great cost. They cause bad skin irritation and can cause blindness, sometimes permantly, if handled wrongly. Dogs are inquisitive and can suffer very painful death if they sniff at them.

Something that your site does not mention Chris, is that they can come down on balmy days in mid winter to bask in the sun on the ground and be 'found' by people, dogs or cats.

The main thing for us is to keep a look out for them from September onwards. At first the eggs show, normaly on the low branches, have a look at the web site above for a photo of an egg collection on a needle. I have seen several and they really do look like the photo. If you miss those then the flimsy temporary cocoons show low down on the tree. BUT the later you spot them the higher and the bigger they get. I have a branch lopper that extends 4.1 meters, with me under it, 6 meters plus and I have had to  use my pool brush strapped to it to reach the highest cocoons in our trees. I have also balanced on high ladders. I don't do that sort of thing unless I think it is necessary!

When I get them, I burn them!!!!! I wear gloves to handle them too!

Sorry to be so insistant, but we have a curious, always hungry, chocky lab bitch and we want to keep her that way, not dead from these things!

As you know Chris I love to protect wildlife, but  I will destroy every one of these that I can.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yesterday I cut the first tiny cocoon and an egg sac needle out of one of our pines! The caterpillars were tiny, about 3/16" long, but still capable of eating the pine needles. They were in the first of their 5 stages of development! They are now departed this world and will do no harm.

So now it is a frequent chech, because if I don't find and destroy them now they get higher and higher and larger and more dangerous as they grow.

Please keep a careful eye out for them!

If you would like any info on them then please first have a look at the link on my first post in this thread and if you would like any more gen PM or e-mail me and I will tyr to help.

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  • 5 months later...
On Sunday we noticed several chains of caterpillars near our local pine forest. Each chain consisted of some 45 caterpillars nose to tail. Incredible sight. At first sight we thought they were small snakes. Had not seen this thread before and did not appreciate the danger.
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If it was like here they have probably come down to get some warmth from the lovely sun and will go back into their tree. They should be coming down to pupate later this month and that's the time when you will se lots. We have commented that there seems to be a heck of a lot more this year than we have seen before. We had a trip, by car, back to the U.K. last month and we saw them most of the way North and a lot further North than we expected too.

The French realise how bad they are but seem to do exactly zero about them??? They really do cause a tremendous amount of damage as well as posing a big threat.

 

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But what can be done about them on a National level John?  As you say they are everywhere near enough that there are pine trees, these can be quite vast areas often way of the beaten track. Other than combating them in your own garden it's a No No, can't be done. It would have helped if people hadn't put pine trees in their gardens in regions where they wouldn't naturally be.

Chris

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  • 3 weeks later...
I'm over in the Medoc and just before last months school holiday, half of the the playground was out of bounds for the children, as the school is surrounded by pine tree's.  I had no idea how dangerous these caterpillars are, but during the holiday the workers went in and dealt with them and also had to change all the sand in the play area as well.  Now I know what to look for and the furry bundles in the trees, which do seem to be very high we will all be avoiding them!  Thanks for all the previous info.
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Hi Trizzy, what amaises me is that the school would have known what they were long before they started to get so high in the trees that they were so difficult to reach and yet they did nothing about them then! Now it was a much bigger job and all the sand to replace as well

I expect that you know why the sand had to be changed? It was because there would have been a good chance that they would have buried themselves in there to pupate and emerge in early autumn and start all over again. Once they are buried I don't know if they are still dangerous but I would expect that the hairs would still do harm?

If you have a look at the link I gave at the beginning of this thread it gives a lot of good info on them. It was a Fench man, J Henri Fabre, at the beginning of the 1900s who did some of the most exaustive studies on them, so the information has been available to the French for a long time. His studies make interesting reading. http://www.ibiblio.org/eldritch/jhf/cater.html . Quite a long report, but, for mr, worth the read!!

http://www.cababstractsplus.org/google/abstract.asp?AcNo=20023189827 . The Spanish do manage to find the cost of fighting them when it hurts their pocket?? There are a lot of interesting sites about them..

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  • 6 months later...

We noticed more of the cocoons today, one quite low down but the remainder at about 20 feet on one of the two pine trees which have been affected before. The caterpillars seemed to be alive but have now been destroyed on a bonfire. We normally have this problem early in the year and cannot remember having to deal with them in October. We are resigned to the fact that we will probably lose the trees eventually.

Peter

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You beat me to it Seb. I was going to revive this thread today after looking at our trees again today! I put a web site on my original post http://web.cortland.edu/fitzgerald/PineProcessionary.html . It is well worth a read.

I am not sure why you haven't seen any cocoons at this time of year. It's about this time, Oct/Sept, that the moths lay their eggs. They are very bad fliers so they can only reach the lower branches to lay. As soon as the eggs hatch the hatchling start eating the needles and they make temporary cocoons low down in the tree. As time goes on the caterpillars get bigger and go through 5 stages. They are not dangerous in the first 2 but unless you know when they get to stage 3 I would advise what I do and wear gloves any time you have to deal with them. There is no reason why you should loose any trees unless there is VERY heavy infestation over a few years. If you get rid of the cocoons as soon as you see them it will save further damage plus they are easier to get at. They start at the lower part of the tree and as the winter progresses they get higher until they can get right to the top. I have actually taken ones from the very tops of our trees. I use a Friskars telescopic branch lopper, 4 meters long extended, and I have made a coupling that lets me extend it with our swimming pool brush pole, about 8 meters in all! A bit unweldy but effective!

I have heard people say that they have killed them by standing on them, but not a lot of good as the hairs are the dangerous part. The only safe way is to burn them. They are though to release a pherimone (?) that attracts dogs to try to eat them. If they do this they can die if not got to a vet very quickly. The tounge and throat swell, go black and block the breathing passages. Not nice. For people they cause serions rashes and can cause other problems that I won't go into.

Some folks think that they only come out of the trees to pupate in March time, but they will also come out on bright and warm winters days too and form their trademark processions. They feed right throught the winter and even feed on nights when the temp is sub-zero, they are very sluggish at this time though.

All in all the only reason that I can find that the counsils don't do anything about them here is the cost. In Spain some of the cities that have had troubles with them have innoculated all of the pines in the city and stopped them that way. In Cyprus they do a lot of spraying. Unfortunately that kills every insect and lots of other wild life too that it touches. Some French use them as target practice and literally blast them out of the trees. Good fun for them, but what happens to the bits, and the shot come to think of it?

Anyway, if you see these things then my only advise is to get rid of them, BUT TAKE CARE! Good luck and be carefull, it's a jungle out there... (where have I heard that before [8-)]?)

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John

Thanks for your comments and advice. We don't have dogs or other animals so apart from the possible danger to friends and neighbours animals (and us!) we will take care. I wore lots of protective clothing, especially strong leather gardening gloves. I understand that they are a big problem in Les Landes where they are sprayed from helicopters.

Pads

No they look somewhat different to the Oak variety, they are yellow/brown - see the link in John's post. I should have tried to take a photo but otherwise had my hands full hanging on to the ladder and bits of branch! The cocoon is quite "pretty" until you get close and realise what is going on inside.

Peter 

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We have a plantation of Corsican Pine (Laricio de Corse) and we are obliged to 'control' them. Our Forestry advisers say spraying is ineffective as they are protected by the cocoon, and that the only way is to cut the branch, put the little beasts in a bag and burn them.
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  • 5 months later...

Time to look out for them again!!!

We had a walk up on the garrigue by us this morning and it was absolutly beautiful, BUT on the way back we saw 2 seperate lots of the little blighters on the road! One 'procession' had been run over with probably a lot that had been missed and escaped into the soft ground at the side of the road and the second lot were crossing the road. Our dog didn't notice either of then thankfully and she was right beside us. I crushed the second lot underfoot. Not the best way to do it but at least they won't breed!

So basically, keep an very close eye out for them. Not only if you have a dog, but also with children! They can hurt them!

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Not only pets that suffer from these horrid things.  Last year I made the mistake of sweeping up a pile of caterpillar corpses so that our dog could be allowed out in the garden.  My husband had sprayed a band round the tree and we ended up with hundreds of dead caterpillars at the bottom of the tree.

I hadn't realised that the hairs from these caterpillars float in the air and are barbed so stick in the skin.  The day after dealing with the dead bodies my neck started itching and by the following day I didn't know what to do with myself.  I have never had such an itchy rash and I ended up going to the doctors as it became really painful and extremely unsightly.

This year we are waiting for our local paysagiste to come and fell the tree but already the caterpillars are about and I'm starting to itch. 

So, if you have one of these pines in your garden and you begin to itch without coming into direct contact with the caterpillars, it's the hairs that are the cause.  Someone I know has recommended sellotape to get the hairs out of your skin but I think it's already too late once the itching has started.  The hairs contain a poison which is the cause of the intense irritation.

Hope no-one else is suffering!

Janet

 

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Janet, you hve just hilighted the reason why burning them is the only sure way of neutralising their problem because it burns the hairs.

You have my sympathy! I haven't suffered with the things and I hope that by being careful I never will, but I will go on warning people about them!

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Well my little blighters have been a bit kamikazi this year - I noticed a few around the edge of the pool volet cover so I got the key and rolled it back and found about 20 or more of them drowned in the bottom of the pool [6]

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Every year you get over anxious and kill these poor things.

It isn't necessary - just move them somwhere away if they bother you.

They are only doing what they do naturally and there are far to many pine trees about.

The main reason they are increasing is global warming so do your bit to save the planet and cut back on CO2 emmisions if you want them to depart this area.

They are not caterpillars for long and are going to become beautiful if not colourful moths and bats feed on them. Do you want to upset nature and remove bat food because then you'll have a fly problem.

They are fascinating creatures leave them alone!

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Are you kidding, Dog?......

I am the sort of daft person who catches wasps in a matchbox and puts them outside, despite being very allergic to their stings, but these caterpillars - oh no.  About four years ago I was trying to sweep the things up whilst wearing gloves and a long-sleeved jacket, plus a scarf over my face.  Despite this the spores got at me and by the end of the day I was itching all over.  The next THREE WEEKS were a time I prefer not to remember.   I thought I'd go out of my mind with the itching.  I still have to deal with them and I take the same precautions, being ever more careful to avoid the spores - I look like an astronaut.  Whenever possible I hire someone to climb the high pines and cut off the affected branches but cannot do this all the time and may well end up felling all the trees concerned (I shudder to think of the cost, but....)  I am also terrified of the dogs being affected by their spores, after a friend's young, fit dog nearly died.

They are AWFUL things.  I rate them on the same scale as mosquitos, but ten times worse.

Chrissie (81)

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