IF you have seen white, candyfloss styled webs high in pine trees, keep a watchful eye on the ground for the Pine processionary caterpillar.
It is at this time of year that the caterpillars head to woodland floors in search of a place to pupate and it is when you will see the characteristic long lines as they follow each other nose to tail.
And while that is a view of nature to behold, the Pine processionary caterpillar has a horrible 'feature', the small hairs on its back are poisonous and can be a terrible irritant if touched.
But cats and dogs are particularly at risk as the fine hairs can become embedded in the mouth, or stomach, and if not spotted quickly and dealt with by a vet, can prove fatal.
Beyond keeping your pets close to heel, there is little you can do to keep the caterpillars at bay. Professionals will use blow torch apparatus to burn the insects, but the trees in a small area will play host to hundreds of nests.
So just keep an eye out between now and May for the Pine processionary caterpillar, stay clear of pine trees if you are worried, and let the beasties progress on their way.
Related: Asian hornet battle set to start
If you found this useful...
+ Stay up-to-date: Get your free This French Life newsletter
I am, or more correctly my dog is, witness to the problems these caterpillars can cause. Our Lab' lost the front 2 cms of his tongue last year, and was lucky to have survived. Be warned.
Posted by: J Roger Clifford-Banks | 06 March 2012 at 06:04