Processionary moth and gypsy mothProcessionary moths are caterpillars of butterflies that feed on various tree species such as z.B. of oak, pine or fir, often in columnar "processions – move on.
Gypsy moths can feed on numerous species of forage plants. As a result, the hyperactive caterpillars spread en masse in search of food during outbreaks, even in private gardens, and also enter homes through open windows and doors. There caterpillars can become a significant nuisance to affected people and also affect their health.
Figure 1: Procession of the oak processionary moth (picture provided by the Bavarian State Institute for Forests and Forestry)
A health hazard for humans can come from the stinging hairs of the caterpillars, the skinning remains, the nests or stinging hair contaminated moths.
When humans come into contact with the stinging hairs of processionary moth caterpillars, their molting remains, the nests, or with stinging hair-contaminated moths, dermatitis (skin inflammation) is the primary result, partly due to mechanical irritation and partly due to the toxic components. It is observed very frequently and is attributed to the thaumetopoein-like substance and other kinins from the stinging hairs, which lead to a histamine release. The skin inflammation is characterized by severe itching, reddening of the skin, wheals and blisters, especially on areas of the skin that are not covered by clothing, e.g. the skin of the skin. B. lower extremities, neck, face. Sometimes insect bite-like nodules form, or. Papules. The duration of the disease is between two days and two weeks. The varying severity of the clinical picture is probably related to an individually varying sensitivity.
Figure 2 and 3: Skin reactions after contact with oak processionary moth (Copyright W. The allergic reaction is usually hives mainly in the neck area. On the arms as well as swellings (edema) especially of the eyelids observed. Effects occur 15-60 minutes after contact with stinging hairs. Ig E antibodies to thaumetopoein and other proteins have also been detected in the serum of patients after contact with pine processionary moths.
Ocular conjunctivitis/corneal inflammation and ophthalmia nodosa
If the caterpillar hairs get into the eye, there is an acute conjunctivitis with redness, photophobia and severe swelling of the eyelids. When the stinging hairs bore through the cornea, corneal inflammation is the result. For the pine processionary moth, the clinical picture "Ophthalmia nodosa" is also described in rare cases. These are severe inflammations of the interior of the eyes. Inflammation of the throat and upper airways
Inhalation of the stinging hairs can cause inflammation of the throat and bronchial tubes. In some cases, allergic asthma has been reported in patients with hyperreactive bronchial systems after contact with pine processionary moths. Additional symptoms
Gastrointestinal symptoms, dizziness, chills, fever and anaphylactic reactions have been observed in isolated cases.
Measures for self-protection
For questions concerning the control of processionary spiders in gardens, public green spaces, playgrounds, etc., please contact us. please contact the public order office of your municipality!
If you need advice on a control measure in the forest, the Bavarian State Institute for Forests and Forestry is the appropriate contact.
When the oak processionary moth is present in a region, some precautions should be taken to minimize adverse health effects as much as possible. Foresters, forestry workers, construction workers, and landscapers who work in regions with heavy infestations are considered special risk groups because frequent contact can increase reaction sensitivity and symptom intensity. In general, the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to identify and assess the hazards to their employees in the workplace (so-called . Measures for safety. To protect health from this. In the area of occupational safety, the TOP principle generally applies, d.h. that technical and organizational measures take precedence over personal measures (e.g., the use of a protective clothing). B. Personal protective equipment) must be taken. The PPE to be worn by the employee is determined as part of the risk assessment process
Organizational measures recommended by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health include the following:
– Avoid staying in infested areas – Check oak trees for infestation before forestry work – Avoid any skin contact with caterpillars and nests – Flush infested areas with water if necessary. Do not eat, drink or smoke in infested areas during work – Clean hands regularly and also if contamination with stinging hairs is suspected, observing skin care in accordance with the skin protection plan – Do not enter break areas with contaminated work clothing – Remove personal protective equipment (PPE) properly immediately after use, e.g., for cleaning and disinfecting the skin. B. Turn protective suits inside out and stow them in sealable bags, tote bags or other containers – remove PPE and work equipment contaminated with stinging hairs, including any other protective clothing. Motor vehicles must be cleaned properly – Wash contaminated clothing at at least 60 °C to inactivate the stinging nettle toxin
Questions about occupational safety, especially during control, are also answered by the Bavarian Trade Inspectorate.
For individuals who have an increased likelihood of coming into contact with caterpillars of the oak processionary moth, the following additional measures are recommended:
– Use pollen filters in cars; – Protect interiors, z.B. Do not bring contaminated clothing into dwellings, or only with precautionary measures; – Observe warnings ied by the authorities in infested areas; – After contact, if necessary, take precautionary measures. Flush eyes with water.
1. What are the acute health consequences of contact with EPS??
Exposure to the stinging hairs of the caterpillars, the skinning remains, the nests or the stinging hair-contaminated moths may cause acute irritation and inflammation of the affected skin and mucous membranes. Uncovered skin areas such as the face, neck and unclothed extremities are particularly affected. Mechanical contact with the stinging hairs and a protein (thaumetopoein) present in the stinging hairs can cause skin irritation and irritative-toxic inflammation at the affected skin sites. This can lead to severe itching. skin rash may occur. Sometimes insect sting-like nodules form. If the caterpillar hairs get into the eye, an acute conjunctivitis with redness, photophobia and severe swelling of the eyelids can occur. If the stinging hairs penetrate the cornea of the eye, this can cause corneal inflammation. Inhalation of stinging hairs can cause irritation. cause inflammation in the throat area and respiratory tract. Some persons may also experience respiratory distress. Swallowing stinging hairs can cause swelling of the mucous membranes. Inflammation of the throat can be triggered. The causal mechanism for the development of the symptoms has not yet been clearly clarified.
2. What long-term health consequences may occur?
Long-term health consequences are not to be expected after contact with the stinging hairs of the caterpillars, the skinning remains, the nests or the moths contaminated with stinging hairs. The symptoms caused by the inflammation usually subside again after 2 days to 2 weeks without any consequences. Symptoms may reoccur after renewed contact and then subside again.
3. How far can the caterpillar hairs be spread by wind and still cause reactions?
The stinging hairs of caterpillars can be carried through the air over long distances. Significant spread has been demonstrated over distances of up to 50 m to date. In the air, the stinging hairs, similar to dust particles, undergo a strong dilution depending on the wind situation (wind direction and wind speed) and air flow, which is also influenced by thermals, terrain structure and vegetation density. The distance at which health effects can be expected depends on the exposure and individual sensitivity to contact with the stinging hairs of the caterpillars, the molting remains, the nests or the moths contaminated with stinging hairs. 4. What is the danger of abandoned webs?. How fast does the effect of abandoned webs decrease after months/years? What is the danger of abandoned webs. How quickly does the effect of abandoned webs diminish after months/years?The stinging hairs spun into the cocoons can remain for several years as solid structures consisting of spider threads, caterpillar droppings, moulting remains and pupal husks, and can trigger the above-mentioned symptoms on contact. Even after decay resp. Falling webs remain on the ground or on low vegetation, etc. get the effect of the stinging hairs over the same period of time.
5. Can I still enter forests if the EPS caterpillar occurs there?
6. Is it advisable to change clothes after a visit to the forest if oak processionary moth infestation is known to occur there?
7. What should I do concretely if I have come into contact with stinging hairs of the EPS?
After contact with the stinging hairs, an attempt should be made to remove any stinging hairs present on the skin with adhesive tape. This should be followed by a shower bath with hair washing and if the eyes are involved, rinsing the eyes with water.In case of aggravation of symptoms, medical clarification/treatment should be given. If there is shortness of breath or other serious reactions after contact, the emergency call (112) should be dialed.
8. Who can or should the citizen contact if he has health problems after contact with the EPS?
Leaflets and other information
Comprehensive information is available at the links listed to the right. Further information can be found at the following locations:
Tuthill RW, Canada AT, Wilcock K, Etkind PH, O'Dell TM, Shama SK. An epidemiologic study of gypsy moth rash. Am J Public Health.