Costa del Sol expats warned killer caterpillar invasion due

Published:  24 Jan at 6 PM
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Tagged: Spain
Expats living in Spain’s Costa del Sol region are preparing for the annual invasion of killer caterpillars.

Hordes of venomous Pine Processionary Caterpillars arrive every year in February, killing pets and causing major risks of eye damage, dermatitis and severe allergic reactions in children and adults. The venomous creepy-crawlies are covered in tiny, barbed hairs containing a poisonous protein known as thaumetopoein. If they sense an attack, they shoot the hairs in the general direction of the perceived danger, with dogs most at risk of fatal consequences.

Dog owners dread this time of year, as their ‘best friends’ can easily pick up the hairs on their paws by licking the resulting irritation. Once the poison is in the mouth, it causes breathing problems, vomiting, foaming at the mouth and suffocation once the poison reaches the throat. One expat lost his beloved rottweiler to the poison after the dog had eaten one of the caterpillar larvae.

Vets in the area report increasing numbers of cases resulting in death over the past several years, and have been forced to amputate parts of lips, noses and tongues to save poisoned dogs by preventing the spread of the poison. It’s not just pets who are at risk from the deadly caterpillars, as the poison badly affects children and even adults, causing dangerous allergic reactions and breathing problems as well as dermatitis.

Local authorities advise anyone who’s seen these caterpillars to report their location immediately in order for spraying to begin, and local parks are often sprayed as a precaution, but trying to remove the hairs yourself isn’t advised. Areas most at risk are pine forests and other locations which contain pine trees. Dog owners are advised to rush their pet to the nearest vet immediately they suspect it’s been in contact with the poison.
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