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These caterpillars march. They fluff. They scare London.

Threats to trees and health aside, oak processionary moth larvae have socially redeeming qualities

By
8:00am, May 11, 2018
Oak processionary caterpillar

BAD HAIR SEASON Oak processionary caterpillars (one shown) show great style in marching formation but then there’s the noxious hair problem. (It’s not the long hairs you need to worry about, but near-invisible short ones.)

Of course the guy’s wearing a full-body protective suit with face mask and goggles good and snug. He’s about to confront a nest of little fluffy caterpillars.

Insect control can get surreal in the London area’s springtime battle against the young of oak processionary moths (Thaumetopoea processionea).  The species, native to southern Europe, probably hitchhiked into England as eggs on live oak trees in 2005, the U.K. forestry commission says.

Adults are just harmless mate-seeking machines in city-soot tones. But when a new generation’s caterpillars finish their second molt into a sort of preteen stage, their short barbed hairs (called setae) can prick an irritating, rash-causing protein into any overconfident fool who pokes them. Even people who’d never torment, or even touch, a caterpillar can suffer as stray hairs waft on spring breezes. (More

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