Aerial Spraying Only Way to Combat Pine Processionary Caterpillar Damage

Spraying against Pine Beetle
[File Photo]
Thursday, 4 May 2023

The spread of the Pine Processionary Moth Caterpillar (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) which damages pine trees, in particular Red Pines, is not being addressed by the government, Yeniduzen reports.

The caterpillars are present in Mediterranean countries such Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, France, Spain and Italy. They feed on the needles of pine trees and some other conifer tree species, and in large numbers, they can severely defoliate trees. This can weaken the trees, making them more vulnerable to attack by other pests or diseases, and to environmental stresses such as drought or flood.

In addition human contact with the toxic hair of the caterpillar can cause a number of health problems to both adults and children. They cause skin and scalp rashes, major eye problems, allergic reaction and on occasion, apoplectic shock. They are also harmful to animals.

Reproduction rates of the moth vary with summer and winter climatic conditions. Population numbers are also affected by the success of its natural predators – other insects. The moth can overproduce in periods normally between 3-5 years. Then there follows years when population numbers decline, usually because of natural causes.

Pest Control

Since the 1980s, the fight to control the moth population in North Cyprus was initially done by removing and collecting insect egg sacs, but over time, the use of chemical pesticides had been completely adopted. However this caused collateral damage by killing other insects including bees, which are the natural predators of the moth caterpillar.

After 2010, when the insect multiplied, biological pesticides were used on occasion, and it was observed that population numbers decreased significantly. This method is considered to effectively reduce the insect population, although the effect is temporary.

Meanwhile it has been two years since the last airborne spraying programme was used and caterpillar moth numbers have increased again, damaging the pine trees.

The government has said it would introduce the Calosoma, a large ground beetle, which is the natural predator of the processionary moth caterpillar

The Chamber of Forestry Engineers (OMO) have responded by saying that this action is too little and too late. There are 25,000 hectares of forest to protect and aerial spraying of natural biocides is the only way to reduce numbers and save the pine trees.

Ultimately, a combination of methods, which does the least harm to the environment and to humans and animals is the best option.


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