Our neighbor Jessica stopped me yesterday. Like us, she lives with a dog. She wanted to warn us that she had seen the “pine worms”. Yes, we would have to be on the lookout for these deadly insects!
Pine processionary is the official name for the creatures you see above. Actually, they are moths, whose larvae can be seen in tent-like nests high in pine trees over the winter months in temperate climates.In February, they descend and form nose-to-tail “processionary” columns through the woods. While interesting to observe they must be avoided as their hairs cause an allergic reaction in humans and can literally be deadly for dogs and other small mammals.
We first learned of these insects last year through our South African family in Cascais. Their son Clint was our hairdresser when we lived in Cascais and his beautiful standard poodle Josephine spent each day in the salon with him. She would occasionally step outside to relieve herself. Unfortunately, one day when she returned she started having seizures. Clint rushed her to the nearest vet to learn that she had licked her paws after stepping on one of the creatures. This is the most common way that a dog transmits the irritant to their mouth that is found on the urticating hairs.
In all Josephine spent about a week in the veterinary hospital…several days in its ICU. The area of the tongue that came in contact with the irritant died (necrosed) and had to be removed. It took some time and a lot of care but over time Josephine learned to eat and drink again.
Jessica and Jake
When I ran into Jessica, she and Jake had just returned from VilaVet in town. It was a Sunday, but they had opened when she called to explain that Jake was drooling and his lips were swelling. The vet instructed her to mix vinegar and lukewarm water and begin washing his mouth and paws thoroughly. When washing the mouth she was to try to keep his head down so the hairs did not penetrate the throat. They would open the clinic and meet her there in 15 minutes. Jessica explained that Jake had received 3 injections when she got there. She wasn’t sure what they were, but other than a swollen lip Jake appeared to be in good spirits! Meanwhile, Jessica sported a large red rash on her arm. Likely, it was from the drool that had touched her skin as she was caring for Jake.
Since learning of these creatures, we have avoided the pine forests, our typical route to the beach, during this time of year. But it should be noted that Jake encountered the pine processionary in the gardens that front the river and we had also spotted their long trail on our golf course.
In doing research for this post, I came upon a website that suggested there may a homeopathic option if you are not able to immediately get to a vet.
Here are some homeopathic treatments suggested by a vet if you are out in the middle of nowhere and no professional treatment is quickly available. Carry them around with you..
♦ Poumon histamine 3 ou 5ch – 3 granules (for respiratory allergies)
♦ Apis mellifica 3 ou 5 ch – 3 granules (for insect bites causing swelling)
♦ Belladonna 9CH – 5 granules / toutes les heures (fever, bruising…)
Give again every 15 minutes until you find a vet.
These are NOT a substitute for veterinary treatment. — anglophonedirect.com
Here’s hoping none of us or our beloved pets encounter these pests over the coming weeks.
Achou que devia saber, fica bem, até à proxima semana
In recent years, Europe has seen a big increase in numbers with Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium experiencing plague-like infestations. Another impact of global warming.
Urticating hairs have barbs that work their way into the skin. They are a defensive mechanism found in worms, butterflies, and tarantulas.
My research suggests that cortisone to reduce swelling was likely administered.
I ran into Jessica again on Tuesday. I asked about Jake and he is doing well. However, the rash on her arm is driving her nuts!
We have 5 pine trees in our yard and, ever since finding out about these worms in Feb 2020, at the end of January I inspect each tree very closely and get rid of every nest that I find before they come out. This year I found 8-9, however a couple of weeks ago I came out of the house in the afternoon and found a small procession of about a dozen worms. Must have been a small nest that I had missed. Our son-in-law was once hiking through a pine stand in Mallorca when one of them fell out of the tree onto his neck and got under his t-shirt. He said the ensuing rash was one of the worst experiences in his life. Nasty little buggers.
There is a group on FB that has good information on control methods etc and members also post sightings as a warning to others: