Albufeira council starts annual ‘pine processionary caterpillar’ purge
Albufeira council has started its annual campaign to prevent and control Thaumetopoea pityocampa, commonly known as the pine processionary caterpillar, which nests in pine trees.
The council initiative involves informing locals as to the dangers posed by the caterpillars and is carried out each autumn in order to prevent the formation of nests.
According to the council, “the pine caterpillar is a species with great negative impact on people, animals and the pine trees themselves and is widespread in Portugal. The caterpillar can cause serious public health problems due to released hairs, which sting and causes allergic reactions to the skin, eyes and respiratory system and in rare cases, is fatal.”
“If you have pine trees at home or in your surrounding area, you should take care, depending on the time of year. From January to May, the caterpillars reach their full development, abandon their nests and set off in a long procession along the ground, where they bury themselves and turn into chrysalis. Later a moth emerges and the annual cycle is complete.
“The mechanical destruction of caterpillars is, at this point, the most effective method to use. Between June and September, it is advisable to use baited traps to catch the male butterflies.
“During the autumn period, from mid-September to November, chemical treatments are quite effective. In winter, from October to December, the caterpillars build nests, often high up, in pine trees requiring the use of a ladder to remove them. If you detect nests in pine trees, they should be destroyed and you should not come into contact with them. If you find nests or caterpillars on public roads or schools, contact the Environmental, Urban Hygiene and Green Spaces Division at the council.”
The municipality recommends that people “avoid areas with pine trees, especially in the months of January to March; do not touch the caterpillars or their nests; keep children and animals away from these places and tell children that they should not approach or touch caterpillars or nests.”
In addition to information and awareness campaigns, the council has been promoting the Chapim Project since 2013, where nesting boxes for tits are placed in various areas in order to control the proliferation of the pine caterpillar. Tits like eating processionary caterpillars so this is biological control method for the insect that preserves habitats and biodiversity.