Oak procession moth: danger to humans and animals

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Caterpillars as a health risk - oak procession moths spread

Oak procession moths are not only dangerous for humans alone. The stinging hairs of caterpillars can also cause toxic reactions in animals.

The oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea) is a butterfly and belongs to the family of tooth moths. Its caterpillars feed on leaves of the infested trees and can bare whole forests. That is why it is also considered a pest.

Why is the caterpillar dangerous? The caterpillar's very fine stinging hair contains a protein poison (thaumetopoein), which can cause caterpillar dermatitis in humans. "Most people don't know that dogs can also have an allergic reaction," explains Karl-Christian Bergmann, pulmonologist at the Charité in Berlin.

The barely visible hairs easily penetrate the skin and mucous membrane and attach themselves there with their ticks. In dogs, for example, the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes and mouth can be attacked. Upon contact, the animal should be showered properly so that the poisonous hair is removed from the fur.

The hair of the third larval stage (spread in May and June) of the oak processionary is dangerous for humans. They also stick to their clothes and shoes and always trigger new toxic reactions when touched. For this reason, people and animals alike must keep a distance of at least 50 meters so that the hair cannot be brought into contact by the wind.

Allergy sufferers are particularly at risk.If there is contact, the clothing should be removed as quickly as possible. Shower and rinse your eyes under running water. The poison is only destroyed at a washing temperature of at least 60 degrees, which is why it is advisable to wash your clothes.

It can be problematic for people with allergies to pollen or house dust. The poison may even trigger an allergic shock. In such cases, treatment with cortisone and antihistamines can help. In recent years, the oak processionary moth, who lives mainly in southern Europe, has spread more and more in Germany. Experts cite climate change and rising temperatures as the reason for this. (fr)

Read also about oak procession moth:
Oak processionary insignificant danger
Strong spread of the processionary moths
Poisonous caterpillars pose a greater health risk
Caterpillars cause a large alarm
Spread of toxic caterpillars is a health risk

Photo credit: Erika Hartmann / pixelio.de

Author and source information

Video: Outbreak of dangerous caterpillars - OPM

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