How dangerous is the toxic caterpillar to humans and animals?

Between the end of May and the end of September, the Oak Parade Butterfly theme was updated again. Not the small, inconspicuous larvae or the mites themselves are dangerous to us, but the poisonous hairs of the larvae.

Oak moth provokes skin irritation, anaphylactic shock and itching

Caterpillar moths hatch from the oak procession moth after molting three times. The moth itself is not the problem, but the larva. The animals got their name because they scatter through the tree as in a procession when they flock to their favorite food, oak leaves.

This alone makes them a pest. They prefer oak as a host and can cause serious damage to the tree due to their appetite. But not only the tree: people and pets also suffer from the caterpillar, that is, when they touch it. The animals have hairy backs and these fine hairs contain nettle poison. It can even lead to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. The poison causes redness, irritation, and hives on the skin.

When do oak parade moths become dangerous?

From the end of April / beginning of May, the butterfly larvae hatch and eat fresh leaves and from the end of May they begin to migrate to build typical web-like nests. After pupation, gray-brown butterflies hatch. Young larvae are formed in the fall and winter in the egg.

Where are the oak procession moths found?

The larva of the oak moth, which is dangerous to humans, loves the young foliage of oak trees.

© dpa, Peter Roggenthin

Caterpillars love acorns, warmth and sun. Nests are often found on the edge of the forest, on roads, in parks and gardens. Feeding damage becomes apparent from mid-May to September. If the caterpillars eat their way through the foliage only once, the tree can usually survive by having a St. John’s shoot, the second leaf shed on deciduous trees, at the end of June. However, if this happens for several years in a row – and then a drought occurs – the oak trees may also die.

What exactly is the danger of the oak procession mite?

Of the third hair loss, one caterpillar was covered with over 600,000 stray hairs. These have sharp barbs and are filled with nettle poison thaumetopein. With each shedding, the stinging hair is stripped away by the wind. Spider nests are also dangerous – all year round.

The hair of the oak parade caterpillar is very dangerous

Oak moth procession is back

In particular, the fine hairs of the oak moth are dangerous to people who come in contact with them.

© dpa, Patrick Pleul, ppl; Han. fux jhe dna skm vge

Since the tiny hairs have spines, they are caught all over the place. It was easy to rub them in your eyes or insert them into your airway. If they get into the mucous membranes, inflammation can occur, which is especially dangerous for patients with asthma. Hair causes severe itching of the skin.

Never touch the caterpillars!

Under no circumstances should you touch the larvae, as even being directly near them can cause the tiniest of hairs to be inhaled.

  • Change clothes outdoors immediately
  • Rinse the shoes with water
  • Wash the clothes at at least 60 degrees in the washing machine
  • Visible caterpillar hairs can be removed with duct tape
  • Take a good shower and wash your hair
  • Do not dry it as you can rub the hair residue deep into the skin
  • Wash eyes with water
  • It is recommended to visit a family doctor
  • If you experience shortness of breath, contact emergency services immediately

Submitting reports to official authorities

Next step: please report your forest observations to the responsible forestry office or, in the event of an out-of-forest invasion, to the municipality!

As the oak parade moth threatens dogs

By the way, dogs suffer from contact with the hair of a poisonous caterpillar as much as humans. Here, too, a visit to the doctor is inevitable. For example, if a dog touches the larvae with his tongue, his mouth should be rinsed well.

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Butterfly caterpillar parade control only by professionals

The caterpillars may only be fought by professionals.

Oak mites should only be handled by experts in hazmat suits.

© dpa, Markus Klümper, pat

Experts either proceed with the use of biocides or selectively empty the larvae. The biocide is Dipel ES or Foray ES. It contains the bacteria Bacillus thuringensis, which destroys the intestinal wall of the oak moth and leads to the death of the larvae.

More measures are being explored. One method that seems effective is to use hot water on the larvae and hair. 97 degrees of hot water destroys the protein structures in nettle venom and thus also neutralizes the risk of residual stinging hair.

A new foam supplement is currently being tested. The tree is widely sprayed with foam. The foam insulates, retains heat longer and reaches the larvae outside the nest.

In worms there is also an experiment using small nematodes. They are able to enter and kill the larvae. With the help of a spray system, young worms are injected into the heads of oak trees.

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