Pine Processionary Moths Increased by 250 Percent

[Pine Processionary Moth Caterpillars]
The population of the pine processionary moth has increased by 250 percent, the Cyprus Foundation for Combating Erosion, Afforestation and Protection of Natural Assets (KEMA) has stated, Yeniduzen reports.

The moth is widespread over the Mediterranean and can cause widespread damage to pine trees, and red pines in particular. Human contact with the toxic hair of the caterpillars 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.

Since 2010 an aerial spraying programme was in place to reduce the number of caterpillars however, since 2020, this programme came to a halt.

The government stated that it would introduce the Calosoma, a large ground beetle, which is the natural predator of the processionary moth caterpillar, however, this response has not been effective, KEMA states.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees for KEMA, İlkay İlseven, emphasised that the only method of control that has become mandatory in years when the insect population is well above the damage threshold value is spraying biological larvicide from the air.  “None of the other methods have been seen to reduce such a density below the damage threshold value. It is foolish to claim otherwise”, he said.

Pointing out that the insect population has increased greatly since aerial spraying ceased after 2020, İlseven, in a written statement, said that the pine trees in the country turned from green to red. He noted that photosynthesis stops in pine trees that have lost their green needles, and growth of up to 60 percent and more ceases. 

İlseven stated that trees which have lost their resistance have been weakened and are invaded by bark beetles, which are secondary pests (they infect sick and weakened trees) and are deadly insects, causing mass deaths in forests.

It is necessary to tackle the population of the processionary pine moth because of the damage caused to pine trees and because the hairs on the caterpillars cause allergic reactions, sometimes very serious, in humans and animals, İlseven stated.

All these data have emerged from long term studies by scientists, he said.

Likewise, many integrated control methods have been developed and applied around the world to prevent the damage caused by the pine processionary beetle. Various control methods are used depending on insect density, İlseven said. However, the only control method that has become mandatory in years when the insect population is well above the damage threshold value is the aerial biological larvicide application method. None of the other methods have been shown to reduce such intensity below the harm threshold. 

Pointing out that the insect population has increased greatly since there has been no aerial spraying in the country since 2020, İlseven emphasised that aerial biological larvicide application is a method used by advanced world countries that will eliminate the pine processionary beetle in 10-15 days without damaging the trees.

İlseven said, “Last year, those who set out with the claim that we would destroy an insect of this density with the predatory insect colosoma and birds, let alone finishing the insect, even though 1 year has passed, 200-250 people have died.” They increased it twofold.

 “We believe that there is a need to inform the public about whether or not success can be achieved with the insect Colosoma (Predatory insect), which they constantly mention in their speeches and never stop talking about”, he said.


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