Due to the warm and humid weather German authorities in many areas are warning allergies ridden people to keep an eye out for the Oak Processionary caterpillars.
These caterpillars while looking harmless can post a threat to human health.
The Oak Processionary (Thaumetopoea processionea) is a moth whose caterpillars are pests in oak forests and pose a health hazard because of their poisonous setae (hairs), which may cause skin irritation and asthma.
The moths are widely distributed in central and southern Europe, and are occasionally found as far north as Sweden. In the southern countries of Europe the populations are controlled by natural predators, but these predators do not exist in northern Europe. Their range is expanding northward, possibly or partly as a result of global warming The moth now has an established population in the U.K. The eggs arrived on oak imported to the Richmond area of London in 2006, the range of the species in the U.K has been steadily expanding despite efforts to eradicate it.
The moths are posing an increasing threat to humans as their range is being extended by the warming European climate.The backs of older caterpillars (3rd to 6th instars) are covered with up to 63,000 pointed defensive bristles containing an urticating toxin (thaumetopoein or closely related compounds). The setae break off readily, become airborne and can cause epidemic caterpillar dermatitis (lepidopterism), manifested as a papular rash, pruritus, conjunctivitis and, if inhaled, pharyngitis and respiratory distress, including asthma or even anaphylaxis.
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