Usually they arrive January… and last until about March. Unfortunately this year several nests have already formed and caterpillars have already been seen on the ground. While they are not yet as prolific as they will be in another month….they are still very dangerous.
It is the hairs of the caterpillars that are poisonous. These hairs can become airborne. You must stay at least 2 meters away from any caterpillars.
For animals, the spray can cause great injury, also worse is if the animal licks or eats the caterpillar. If an animal is exposed to caterpillars look for saliva and white spots on the tongue, or other more common signs of poisoning. Effects can be immediate or take up to one hour. After a walk check the mouth of your animal. But please note lack of spots or saliva is no guarantee.
If you think your animal has been exposed to processionary caterpillars wash out its mouth with water, but do not let him or her drink! Take it immediately to the vet. Exposure for an animal is life threatening. Many pets do die from exposure; others suffer loss of part of their tongue or even nerve damage.
If you are new to Portugal…ASK! This is a great concern to all pet owners and to anyone living near pine trees. Do not walk your dogs off lead through the pine trees. Be extremely careful and vigilant around your home… BURN the nests (carefully and while in the tree), do not knock them out, do not go near the caterpillars…and absolutely do not bend over them. Stay away from the caterpillars, remember they “spray” about 1-2 metres in the air that will cause injury to you as well as your pets.