Pine Processionary Moth Caterpillars

We thought we’d nearly stepped on a skinny snake but it was a line of caterpillars:

Processionary Moth Caterpillars
Processionary Moth Caterpillars

We’ve seen their silky nests in pine trees in the Cevennes and more recently in the Vaucluse, but this was the first time we’d seen them on the ground, walking in procession to find somewhere to pupate in the earth.

Caterpillars in a line 2

The caterpillars have dangerous hairs which they can eject like harpoons if they are threatened or stressed. We nevertheless got fairly close to take photos of them walking head to toe and then, on our way back, of them piling on top of each other. Other groups of caterpillars seemed to have perished in the sun: were they dead?

Line close up

Close up 2

Pile up 1

Pile up

Our friend has been advised to remove them from her trees by shooting the nests off  – it’s easier than trying to cut the high branches. They do have natural predators: birds, bats, wasps and flies may eat them at different stages.

Nest close up

Nest

For more info, see http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pineprocessionarymoth or http://www.planetepassion.eu/WILDLIFE-IN-FRANCE/Pine-processionary-moth-France.html

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One thought on “Pine Processionary Moth Caterpillars

  1. How very interesting! I have often wondered what those white fluffy things were in pine trees – now I know.

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