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Workers spray the bacterial solution to prevent caterpillars from thriving. SUR
Malaga council wages war on processionary caterpillars which can be deadly for pets
Environment

Malaga council wages war on processionary caterpillars which can be deadly for pets

Staff will target the nests of the pests in pine trees during autumn and winter, preventing the caterpillars from emerging in spring

Chus Heredia

Malaga

Sunday, 26 November 2023, 09:47

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Malaga has started to treat masses of caterpillar nests throughout the city's parks and gardens.

Staff equipped with a biological solution that avoids the use of toxins will target the nests of the pests in pine trees during autumn and winter, preventing the caterpillars from emerging in spring, when they usually thrive. They pose a special risk to children and pets, causing skin, nasal, ocular and respiratory irritation.

The council has already started killing clusters in the parks Comandante Benítez, La Pelusa, Lagarillo Blanco, Hacienda Clavero, El Polvorín and El Morlaco. They will then move onto the Gibralfaro park this week.

Where are other target zones?

Fumigation works will also be carried out in wooded areas of Cerrado de Calderón, La Cónsula and El Retiro, as well as in Monte Victoria, Monte Calvario-Seminario, Torre Atalaya, San Antón, in the parks of Virreinas, La Concepción and Correcciones Hidrológicas de la Margen Oeste del río Guadalmedina. Wooded areas in Las Palmeras, Galeno and the route through trees in the Jardín Botánico-Histórico La Concepción; the surroundings of the Municipal Animal Protection Centre, are also on the list of treatment zones.

The council will also target pine trees near schools, nursing homes, children's playgrounds, day care centres and health clinics. There will then be a follow-up two weeks after treatment to ensure the nests have been killed.

Processionary caterpillars

Despite being barely 4 centimetres long, the processionary can cause harm to animals much larger than itself, according to pest control experts group. Due to the high toxicity of their trichomes, these insects are "extremely dangerous, especially for children and domestic animals," warned trade association Anecpla.

General director of Anecpla, Jorge Galván, warned, "minimal contact with this species can cause everything from dermatitis to eye injuries, hives and allergic reactions and even death in certain cases."

"Direct contact with the caterpillars is not even necessary," explained Galván, "just touching one of their hairs (which they throw as a defence strategy when they feel threatened), is enough to cause irritation and allergies, especially if they reach the eyes. These hairs are called "trichomes" and it is estimated that each individual has around 500,000, ready to act as poisoned darts when they feel they are in danger.

The presence of pests of this type of caterpillar is frequent in urban parks and gardens, where the presence of pets is common. For this reason, Anecpla stressed the importance of being especially vigilant to prevent dogs from sniffing or touching them. Just minimal contact "usually causes the animal symptoms such as swelling of the muzzle and head, intense itching in the affected parts and abundant salivation. While if they do eat them, ingesting the toxin can cause necrosis of the tongue or throat."

"In the case of pets, especially dogs, this contact can even lead to a tragic end", said the general director of Anecpla, Jorge Galván.

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