Toxic caterpillars hit Spain early after mild winter

© Jean-Pol Grandmont / Wikimedia.
A group of Pine Processionary Caterpillars.

EXPERTS have warned that a plague of poisonous caterpillars will sweep Spain early this year, due to the country’s unusually warm winter weather, reports from February 8 claim. 

Thought to be very harmful to small children and fatal for dogs, the Pine Processionary Caterpillar is normally seen at the start of spring but has already been spotted in parts of the country with an abundance of pine trees, the hairy caterpillar’s habitat of choice. 

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The director of the Spanish Pest Control Association (ANECPLA), Milagros Fernandez de Lezeta, confirmed the early sighting. 

“After a winter that has been much milder and drier than normal, the population of the processionary caterpillar has flourished and brought forward their arrival”.

The scientist went on to describe the major risks posed by the caterpillars, which, Ms Fernandez de Lezeta claims can cause “dermatitis, eye damage and severe allergic reaction” in adults, children and pets. 

Each caterpillar measures 3 – 4 cm in length and is covered in tiny toxin-laden bristles, which contain a protein called thaumetopoein.  

Curious dogs that come into contact with the insect sometimes transfer the barbed hairs to their paws. When trying to lick those off, the animal can effectively poison itself and may suffer vomiting, breathing difficulties or foaming at the mouth. 

In this eventuality, the afflicted pet requires an urgent visit to a vet, to avoid further complications, which in the worst cases, can require the tongue or nose to be amputated or bring about the animal’s death.

Known by experts as the Thaumetopoea Pityocampa, groups of caterpillars are often seen moving in one long snake-like line, hence their name. 

Users of city parks and private gardens should stay vigilant, as the insect can be found anywhere pine trees grow. 


  1. thanks for the warning.
    I have had problems with my animals over these.
    Dog got one that was on the hosepipe and I had missed it and a chicken also had one.
    Thankfully I was bale to save both
    Thanks again

  2. Our Ayuntamiento has spent a fortune creating cycling paths around town that virtually no-one uses yet say they couldn’t afford to spray the pines. I’ve never seen so many nests and have just paid out 160 euros to have them removed from neighbouring trees in holiday homes.

  3. Annie, the man who tries to get rid of the nests in the four pines we have on our property (by our patio and which we are not allowed to fell) told me that there is NO SPRAYING of trees by the authorities (or anyone else) now, due to a DIRECTIVE FROM the EU, Bet the idiots who come up with these rules don’t live near them, or have dogs who are threatened annually by these awful creatures.

  4. 3 dogs in our area ended up in intensive care and lost part of their tongues after touching one of these.
    Thanks for highlighting this problem, it might prevent a fatality.


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