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Processionary Pine Caterpillar
Thursday, 25 March 2010

Thaumetopoea Pityocampa

Known commonly as the as the Processionary Pine Caterpillar.

It is a lepidopteron of the Taumetopoeidae family. A defoliating insect found in Spanish pine trees. The most susceptible to attack are the "larico", "silvestre", "carrasco" and "piñonero" varieties.

The most notable defoliations are in winter time.

This plague is considered endemic to Mediterranean pine forests.

Apart from defoliation, the proscessionary caterpillar produces adverse effects in humans including skin irritation (itching) and severe allergic reactions.

For identification purposes we will concentrate exclusively on the caterpillar, the principal cause of damage produced.  After it's second mutation (it has 4 mutations, passing through 5 stages) the caterpillar acquires its typical definitive aspect. This varies in fur, texture, markings and colour, depending on the location.

In general the texture of their coat darkens in relation to cooler temperatures.

Therefore we find caterpillars with grey/blue tones in the Mediterranean area and caterpillars with blackish coats in the mountainous regions.

The lateral hairs of the abdomen and the thorax vary from pure white to dark yellow.

The dorsal hairs, situated around the irritant producing organ, are yellow or orange. The actual organ has a red tone, more or less intense.

This apparatus is formed from folds of coat that create a kind of packet, where the irritant darts are held.

When the caterpillar is still, the packet stays closed. But when agitated it opens and releases thousands of hairs that contaminate the environment producing irritations and allergic reactions.


Cultivation methods

These methods are used to maintain the trees in optimal conditions and avoid where possible high concentrations of infection.


This is achieved by cutting back the crown (olivando) during the non-growth period. The cuts must be made close to the trunk, without ripping the tree. The maximum diameter of the cut should be 8cm or under, including the bark.

Pruning should always respect the parasol shape of the "piñonero" pines.


The elimination of trunks should only be conducted in strict compliance with technical approval.


Clearing undergrowth is recommended on occasions, in strategically chosen zones and without the need to remove it all; respecting species with a high ecological value; and the posterior elimination of the remains of branches.

Biological methods

This consists in protecting the fauna and favouring the proliferation of the caterpillar's natural predators. Some of those are:-

Birds: Great tit, common tit, hoopoe.

Mammals: Garden dormouse, bat.

Insects: Ants, wasps, locusts.

The treatment of caterpillar sacks

Cutting and destruction

Cut the sacks down with a loping tool and collection net, on a 3 to 4 meter pole.

Do not remove sacks that are in terminal faze (use chemical treatment).

Later they should be burnt or squashed.

They can also be removed with a shot gun using a salt cartridge.

Chemical treatment of the sacks

This should be done without allowing the product to run off the sacks.

It should be done in the winter when the sack is already formed.

The products recommended for use are PIRETRIODES dissolved in water, for example AMBUSH 25F (75ml/ 15l water).

Chemical methods

Chemical products will be used that are innocuous to people, the fauna and vegetation.

Growth inhibitors

Microbiological insecticides


The periods for use are:

In September the following products can be used.

DIMILÍN o DIFLUBENZURÓN (100-125gr. / 5l gasoil / Ha.).

BETACIFLUTIN (sprayed with atomizers that allow a droplet of < 15 Microns)

BACILLUS THURIGIENSIS (sprayed, ultra low volume). This being the most recommended method.

In December the following will be used.

SELENE (25gr. active material / Ha.).


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