Wednesday, July 10th 2019, 5:29 pm - A mild winter and warm spring have led to millions of toxic caterpillars invading parts of Europe, the BBC reports.
Oak processionary caterpillars have caused event cancellations, school and business closures and hospitalizations across Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
The caterpillars are covered in tiny, toxic hairs that trigger rashes, eye irritation, and allergic reactions.
In the German city of Münster, six people had to have eye operations to remove the tiny hairs from their corneas, The Guardian reports. In Mülheim, Germany, nine children were taken to a hospital after coming in contact with the caterpillar hair.
Oak processionary caterpillarsare named after the nose-to-tail processions they form so they can travel between oak trees on the ground. Courtesy: Getty Images.
A mature 700,000 oak processionary caterpillar can have up to 700,000 hairs which have hooks designed to grip the skin, the BBC reports. They can be carried by the wind and cause an allergic reaction in someone kilometres away.
The caterpillars are named after the nose-to-tail processions they form so they can travel between oak trees on the ground. They cluster together to feed on the trees, which can cause significant damage within a forest.
The caterpillars are typically found in central and southern Europe.