It's that time of year where walkers and dog owners should be extra vigilant when walking in areas where there are pine trees. This is due to the potential presence of toxic caterpillars known as Pine Processionary Caterpillars, which live in white nests and feed on the needles of pine trees and other conifer tree species. They are found widely throughout Europe and are common in both urban and residential areas in Cyprus.
In addition to the damage caused to the trees the caterpillars have thousands of fine hairs containing a protein (thamentopoein) which can cause severe irritation, dermatitis and in some cases an allergic reaction (anaphylactic shock) in both humans and animals. Luckily they are only extremely poisonous whilst in their caterpillar stage.
Due to a dogs naturally curious disposition dog owners are advised to keep their dogs on a lead while out walking in areas where the caterpillars may be or have been. Experts claim that people do not even need to come into direct contact with the bugs as their hairs are easily carried in the wind.
If you think that your dog has come in contact with them, you should immediately consult the nearest vet. Symptoms include gagging, vomiting, respiratory distress, inflammation of the mouth, swelling of the tongue, conjunctivitis and hyper-salivation.
The main advice is to not go near them - keep your children, dogs and other pets away from trees you suspect might be host to processionary caterpillars and their nests.
Whilst it is usually noted that these caterpillars appear in Cyprus in March and early April, they appeared in early February in Kalavasos last year. This year, according to a post on Facebook shown below, they have already been spotted in Potamos so no doubt will be elsewhere.
These photos were taken by our contributing photographer Phil Parker in Kalavasos in early February last year:
Check out this video below from Youtube: