Early caterpillar invasion hits Mallorca

Mild weather prompts early caterpillars

A line of processionary caterpillars (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) Credit: Roquex/Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication

Mallorca faces an unusual challenge this season with the early appearance of the pine processionary caterpillar, thanks to the recent spell of warm weather and minimal rainfall.

The caterpillars, typically emerging in late winter, are making an early appearance in both forested and urban areas, raising concerns among residents and health professionals alike.

Doctors and veterinarians across the Balearic Islands are urging the public to exercise extreme caution. Contact with the caterpillar’s stinging filaments can cause irritation, and in severe cases, anaphylactic shock in humans and potentially fatal reactions in pets.

The caterpillars, after hatching in October, become most hazardous by the end of winter, forming their characteristic processions.

Luis Nuñez from the Forest Health Service highlights the abnormal weather conditions as a catalyst for the caterpillars’ early descent from pine trees. While most of the archipelago is at risk, the Serra de Tramuntana offers some respite due to its less conducive environment for the caterpillars.

What to do if stung

For those unfortunate enough to come into contact with these pests, immediate action is crucial.

It is important not to scratch the affected area. The advice is to wash the area thoroughly as the key first steps in removing the toxic filaments.

Special attention should be given to children and individuals with sensitive skin, as advised by allergist Susana Ranea. Treatments include washing with soap and water, taking antihistamines, or applying corticosteroid creams.

Pets, particularly dogs, are at high risk due to their curious nature. Lluis Riera of Canis Veterinary Hospital advises against letting pets roam freely in affected areas and recommends washing any contacted area with warm water to mitigate the effects of the toxin.

The community is advised to avoid pine forest areas and to employ preventive measures such as leashes and muzzles for pets when outdoors.

This early invasion serves as a reminder of the delicate balance within the ecosystem and the importance of being prepared for the unexpected.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.