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Caterpillar invasion in Poland. Beware of their urticating hairs

Caterpillar invasion in Poland. Beware of their urticating hairs

Image source: © canva
Oliwia Ruta,
28.06.2024 16:30

Summer sees an increase in insect activity that people find annoying, unaware they can also be dangerous. Currently, experts are issuing warnings about oak processionary caterpillars infesting Polish forests. What should you do if you come into contact with these insects? And why do these caterpillars irritate human skin?

The holiday season has just begun. More and more people are going away to take a break from everyday life. One of the more popular leisure activities is forest hiking. For many holidaymakers, being active and communing with nature is the basis of a successful holiday.

Unfortunately, this form of relaxation also has some disadvantages. These are particularly troublesome for people who are afraid of insects. The State Forests warns against an invasive species of caterpillars. How do you recognise insects that are better avoided?

The holiday season has recently commenced, prompting more people to seek respite from their daily routines. Forest hiking has become a particularly popular leisure activity, offering many vacationers a chance to stay active and reconnect with nature—a key component of a fulfilling holiday.

However, this relaxation form also comes with challenges, especially for those with insect phobias. The latter should not be the only ones to take notice of the State Forests' warning concerning an invasive species of caterpillars. How can you identify insects that are best avoided?

Beware of oak processionary caterpillars

The oak processionary, a small moth species, poses no direct threat to human health in its adult form. However, its seemingly harmless caterpillars can be quite problematic. Due to fluctuating weather patterns, there has been a noticeable increase in their population in our country.

Each female moth can lay over 150 eggs, which hatch into caterpillars at the end of May. These caterpillars primarily reside in tree canopies, but occasional strong winds can dislodge them to the ground, bringing them into contact with humans or other animals. Covered with numerous two-millimetre-long hairs filled with toxic fluid, these caterpillars can cause skin irritation.

What should you do if you encounter an oak processionary caterpillar?

Touching these seemingly inconspicuous caterpillars can lead to symptoms such as headache, fever, and shortness of breath, as warned on the official Facebook page of the Sława Śląska Forest District. The government organisation has issued guidelines on how to handle skin irritation:

  • Remove any clothing that may have caterpillar hairs on it and wash it at a minimum of 60 degrees Celsius.
  • If the caterpillar hairs are directly on the skin, use adhesive tape to gently remove them. Press the sticky side onto the affected areas and peel off. Repeat as needed with fresh pieces of tape.
  • Wash the irritated skin with lukewarm water.
  • Avoid scratching or rubbing any allergic reactions that appear on the skin.
  • If caterpillar hairs enter your eyes or cause a severe allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.
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