Friday, December 14, 2012

Pine Processionary

Thaumetopoea pityocampa
The Pine Processionary is a major pest... well, at least in their larval stage. Those little insects are native to Southern Europe, and they continue to spread to areas that they previously were not found in, causing problems with their dangerous spiky hairs.

The common name for the species comes from their larval form, and their marching behavior. They actually build these strange nests up in the trees, and then come down at night to forage. On their way to food the larvae form long, processional, head-to-tail lines that can numbers into the hundreds.

You would think that long lines of Caterpillars would be easy targets for predators... but it's not that easy. Pine Processionary larvae have those aforementioned long, spine-like hairs that they can eject outward. If you get stung by one of these hairs it causes severe irritation. Despite this, there are still a handful of species that feed upon them in that phase. People (and pets) should stay far, far away!

When the time comes to pupate, the Caterpillars again for their long lines, and search far and wide for soft soil in which to bury themselves. This usually takes place in March, and the adults emerge and fly from May to July. Adults are harmless to humans.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Europe
Size : Length around 1in
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Insecta -- Order : Lepidoptera
Family : Thaumetopoeidae -- Genus : Thaumetopoea -- Species : T. pityocampa

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