Plague Of Gypsy Caterpillars Turn Town Into Horror Movie

Story By: Kathryn Quinn, Sub EditorJoseph GolderAgencyCEN

A town of 16,000 people has been transformed into scene like a horror movie after it was invaded by swarms of hungry gypsy moths caterpillars, as seen here.

The black, hairy creatures measuring between five and seven centimetres long have spread across a forest and are now attacking residential areas in the town of Gunzenhausen, a town in the Weissenburg-Gunzenhausen district, in Bavaria, in south-eastern Germany.

Experts from the Bavarian Institute for Forestry believe billions of the creatures have spread across the forest and are now invading the bordering residential areas, forcing the council to erect tarpaulins to keep them out.

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Pictures Credit: CEN/BR screen

Although the creatures (Lymantria dispar dispar) are not thought to pose serious health risks to humans they can destroy woodlands and are unsightly, unwelcome creatures.

For months the creatures have been eating all the vegetation in the forest and have now moved on in their millions to more residential areas.

Not only houses are affected, gardens as well as public areas such as the outdoor swimming pool are also affected by the infestation.

Gunzenhausen local Inge Postler said: “We have so many of the creatures, I don’t want to invite anyone to my house.”

Local firemen, pest control companies and council workers as well as residents are involved in the attempted clear up.

Locals report creatures getting into their homes and finding them in the kitchens and bathrooms and one resident even reported finding them in her coffee machine.

Back in March, the town council in Gunzenhausen decided against using pesticides to fight the plague of gypsy moths after forest officials and local residents raised their concerns about the potential damage to the environment.

Gunzenhausen Mayor Karl Heinz Fitz has requested financial assistance from the State of Bavaria to help fight the plague.

He added: “A 600-metre tarpaulin has been erected to keep the creatures away from the houses and swimming pool.”

“It is extremely troublesome for the residents. For weeks they have been trying to fight against the creatures, but they are losing their battle. Therefore it was extremely important that we stepped in.

Gypsy moth caterpillars possess characteristics not found on other leaf-feeding caterpillars. They have five pairs of blue dots followed by six pairs of red dots lining the back. In addition, they are dark-coloured and covered with hairs.

In early summer (June to early July), Gypsy moth caterpillars enter a transitional stage. The pupae are dark brown, shell-like cases approximately two inches long and covered with hairs. They are primarily located in sheltered areas such as tree bark crevices or leaf litter. 

The gypsy moth is one of the most destructive pests of hardwood trees. They tend to multiply particularly in hot weather in early summer. They also cause severe damage to hardwood forests and urban landscapes.

To humans the newly hatched caterpillars can also be a health hazard. Their hairs contain histamine and are highly allergenic.

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