The German media are reporting on a developing outbreak of the oak processionary caterpillar now spreading over the Eastern and Southern areas of Germany.
The caterpillars are pests in oak forests and they pose a health hazard because of their poisonous hairs which can cause skin irritation and asthma. Quite the nasty critter, indeed.
German daily Die Welt reports that the dangerous caterpillar develops especially well in warm and dry springs, adding:
Also climate change has likely contributed to the spread of the pest.”
Even though they don’t cite any information or data to back it up. I suspect they got their information from Wikipedia, who write:
The moths are widely distributed in central and southern Europe, and are occasionally found as far north as Sweden. In the southern countries of Europe the populations are controlled by natural predators, but these predators do not exist in northern Europe. Their range is expanding northward, possibly or partly as a result of global warming [clarification needed, citation needed]. The moths are posing an increasing threat to humans as their range is being extended by the warming European climate.. The backs of older caterpillars (3rd to 6th instars) are covered with up to 63,000 pointed defensive bristles containing an urticating toxin (thaumetopoein or closely related compounds). The setae break off readily, become airborne and can cause epidemic caterpillar dermatitis (lepidopterism), manifested as a papular rash, pruritus, conjunctivitis and, if inhaled, pharyngitis and respiratory distress, including asthma or even anaphylaxis.”
The oak processionary caterpillar has spread during other years as well.