Caterpillar invasion: Fearsome ‘hairy pine’ spotted in Paris – and it’s heading for UK

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The pine processionary moth, when it is in its caterpillar stage of life cycle form a ‘procession’ when moving from one area to another. The spikes of the dreaded creature can cause severe reactions, such as anaphylactic shock. If human skin touches the spikes protruding from the caterpillars body it can cause a painful rash to form math lasts for up to three weeks.

In most cases contact with the creature causes mild inflammation.

The species is usually prevalent in southern regions closer to the equator, but temperature changes brought on by global warming have seen its habitual area expand.

However, now the moth is commonly seen in northern areas of France and is even predicted to migrate to the UK.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Jérôme Rousselet, an expert at the French institute of agricultural research, Inrae said: “It was absent from the region in the 1990s but since then it has really rocketed”.

The creature has for a long time devastated pine trees in the souther parts of France.

It’s movement northward will now threaten shrubbery in northern France and the UK.

It may be necessary to introduce artificial controls if the species becomes a constant threat to the UK’s forestry plantations.

One method is to locate the large nests of the species and remove them from trees, this is less damaging than spraying insecticides.

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Speaking to Le Parisien newspaper an official from the French capital’s town hall said: “We are observing a rise in the number of sites alerting to the presence of nests of pine processionaries coming up from southern Paris.”

Now the UK’s Woodland Trust has warned: “Now there are fears it’s heading north to the UK.

“There could even be a risk of natural spread to the UK, since female adults can fly on average 1.5km in their lives.”

Concerning the behaviour of the species, biologist Terrence Fitzgerald has said: “Colonies are active throughout the winter months.

“There are activity records of colonies foraging in pine forests in mountainous regions near Barcelona, Spain, obtained with infrared activity monitors.

“These monitors show that the caterpillars leave their nests soon after sunset.

“They then travel to distant feeding sites on the branches of the host tree.

“There, they feed overnight then return to the nest at dawn.”

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