The pine processionary caterpillar in Mallorca

The Processionary Caterpillar is probably the most dangerous insect in Mallorca. They are covered with brittle hairs that provoke severe allergic reactions to humans and could also be lethal to dogs and cats.

Get rid of the processionar caterpillar in Mallorca

The pine processionary caterpillar is found mainly in pine forests in Mallorca and can be identified by the thousands of small poisonous hairs that cover its body. The caterpillars measure between 3 and 4 cm in length and are usually orange to brown in colour.

The name ‘processionary’ comes from the fact that they create a procession (or parade) from head to tail to form a long chain. It is not uncommon to see chains of caterpillars with tens or hundreds of them forming a long line.

Pine caterpillars are not only extremely toxic and therefore dangerous to anyone who comes into contact with them, but are also responsible for the destruction of the pine forests they inhabit.

Their nests are tent-like (they are made in this way to protect themselves from the cold) and are usually found in the branches of pine trees.

When the larvae are ready to pupate —between late winter and early spring— they descend in single file down the tree to the ground, where they continue their life cycle, often burrowing below the surface.

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The dangers of the pine processionary should not be underestimated. The stinging hairs can be deadly to dogs that choose to sniff out areas where there are (or have been) caterpillars, which can also launch these like arrows if they feel threatened in an attempt to protect themselves.

The hairs or bristles contain a stinging protein called thaumetopoein which, in mild cases, can cause skin irritation or a rash similar to that experienced after brushing against a field nettle.

An antihistamine cream is usually sufficient to relieve symptoms, but in severe cases, people may experience allergic reactions or respiratory problems. Asthmatics are particularly vulnerable and at risk of a severe episode.