what will change their classification as a species that is harmful to human health

Their very volatile hair causes itching, allergies, respiratory irritation, conjunctivitis or even inflammation of the mucous membranes which can lead to animal death. Procession larvae, whose presence has spread in France in recent years, have just been classified as harmful to health, via a decree dated 25 April published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 27 April. These species are now present in at least 84 of the 96 French departments.

The two species of processional larvae classified as pests

The two species of procession larvae are classified as harmful, the decree specifies. The pine procession larva, which is present on the forest floor from December to April, recedes in the spring eg processional larva, present from April to August on tree trunks. These spring and summer larvae are slightly less accessible as they are not present on the ground, however equally stinging and dangerous to animals and humans.

Own procession larva, present until August in the forests.
Processional larval observatory

A classification that will force the prefects to act in risk areas

This location is “A very good news”, welcomes Alice Samama, animator at the Processionary Caterpillar Observatory, created last year. It will actually allow, and even oblige the prefects to “introduced treatments and strategies to combat their spread”in places where the larvae risk affecting humans and domestic animals, she explains. “Specifically, we will have more or less mandatory management depending on the risk”, says Alice Samama. “For example, if larvae are observed in a children’s park or school playground, the prefect will be required to act. Vise versa in an overcrowded forestrisk management will not be mandatory.

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From the eco-trap to the bacteria via the titmouse, several possible treatments

How can the prefect act? “Different treatments are possible”, explains Alice Samama. To treat the pine procession larva that moves on the ground, eco-traps in the form of necklaces can be placed at the base of tree trunks: the larvae get stuck in them and will not be able to move on the ground. For the treatment of the oak procession larva, present until August, rather, shipowners should be destroyed. To reduce the presence of both species, “We can also promote the presence of their predators, which are titmice and bats”, explains the specialist.

There is also a biological control treatment with a specific bacterium, called Bacillus thuringiensis. A treatment already used by some municipalities. “This bacterium is targeted at moths of both species, but you have to be very careful because it is also targeted at other species of butterflies”, explains Alice Samama.

The goal is not to eradicate procession larvae – Alice Samama, animator at the Observatory for Processional Caterpillars

But the specialist warns: “The goal is not to exterminate the procession larvae. The species actually has predators that have to eat these larvae”, she explains. “If we eradicate them, we are removing a link in the food chain and that could bring biodiversity into imbalance.” Instead, Alice Samama recommends implementing targeted actions, depending on the risk in each area.

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