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Today I saw the infamous processionary caterpillars; the only dangerous creature in the Geneva region. They are red, hairy and poisonous. This long line of nose-to-tail travelling caterpillars, that can easily reach 2 meters long, is fascinating for both kids and animals alike. But don’t touch them!

The red caterpillars I saw today are the pine version. Several of my neighbors as well as our elementary school used to have the distinct cocoons high up on the sunny side branches of their pine trees. Tree owners are required to have the winter cocoons of these chenilles processionaires removed. Most people hire specialists since the hairs act as spears and when they penetrate your skin, release a toxic protein. I have heard horrible stories of inhaled “hairs” that have caused swelling and near death of pets.

My own son had a run-in with the Oak tree version. These caterpillars are whitish. At the age of 6 he knew not to touch the caterpillars. However, while on a school trip to a park near Junction, he and some other boys decided to rage war upon a fallen cocoon. Unfortunately for my son, he touched the wrong end of the stick he was using and everywhere that hand touched a horrible rash appeared.

The Rash.

The rash and swollen left hand.

So once again I say: Don’t Touch!

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland.  If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/