These cute caterpillars can poison your child

What is a pine processionary? And what should you do if you come in contact with one?

Tags: Bugs Poison Moths
Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Pine processionary caterpillars
Pine processionary caterpillars

It may look cute, but don't touch it, or you might end up in the emergency room.

The pine processionary is a moth common in central Israel, but which carries a poison dangerous to children, adults and other animals.

The pine processionary crawls down pine trees in the spring, and becomes a caterpillar and then a pupa underground. It's exactly during this time - when they morph from caterpillar to pupa - that their poison is most potent an can cause severe and irreversible damage such as blindness and death, to both people and animals.

Two years ago, fifteen 8-year-olds were taken to Haemek Hospital in Afula after they were exposed to the pine processionary. The children's eyes and bodies were thoroughly washed with anti-allergy medications.

That same year, fifteen two-year-olds from Hod Hasharon were taken to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba - without their parents - because of severe allergic reactions caused by contact with the pine processionary. These children suffered from hives around their eyes, face, and stomachs, as well as itching and redness. Because they received quick treatment, worse injuries were prevented.

How does it happen?

A pine processionary's hairs contain a dangerous poison which causes skin to become irritated, red, and itchy. But in extreme cases, the poison can cause irreversible damage if it comes in contact with a person's eyes - and it can cause vomiting as well as breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath which imitate an asthma attack.

What should you do if your child is stung?

If your child was touched by a pine processionary, wash the area with a lot of water and remove any of the caterpillar's hairs from their body or clothes. Use anti-allergy medicines, if you have them.

In case of a severe reaction, go straight to the emergency room.

If you see a pine processionary, be careful, stay away from it, and tell the municipality immediately.