day 43 – poisonous caterpillars

Since I’ve been living in Portugal, I have heard a few rumours about these little critters – hiding out in spider-web-look-a-like nests in Pine trees.  One person I know who grew up here claimed that when she was a kid, her school was evacuated because of an infestation of them.  But I was always a bit sceptical. Today we spotted what looked like the previously described insidious little nest of scary multi legged devils.  A quick internet search when I got home confirmed all the stories.  Except maybe for the part about them maliciously leaping out of trees to eat the faces off hapless bystanders.  The Procession Caterpillar does indeed “nest” in Pine trees, sometimes infesting entire forests.  They can be found in many places in Europe including Spain and France too.  They are dangerous because if you disturb them they will shoot their little body hairs into the air and where ever said hairs land will cause swelling.  Typically this will be on your skin and will be very painful and itchy, and if you’re really unlucky, you might breathe them in and die.  This is how dogs and cats often die after sniffing them – from suffocation.  They get their name from their habit of walking around in a perfect little line of hairy death, ranging from 4 cm to as long as 24 meters!  I am going to call them the Hairy Pet Killing Caterpillar of Death from now on.  Fortunately they are neither likely nor capable of chasing after you so humans are usually safe unless they are an unfortunate combination of ignorant and inquisitive.

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