Covid-19 could hinder fight against poisonous caterpillars: report

Oak processionary caterpillars
Oak processionary caterpillarsPhoto: Luc hoogenstein/Wikimedia Commons

The outbreak of the coronavirus, and the shortage of protective clothing it entails, is posing a problem for the fight against the oak processionary caterpillar, the association of gardeners and landscapers VHG and various contractors that fight the plague of poisonous caterpillars said to NRC.

The oak processionary caterpillar is active in the Netherlands between April and August. Their hair cause a burning reaction on mammals, which can cause health issues like burning eyes and breathing problems. Last year 85 out of every 100 thousand Dutch people ended up in a doctor's office due to these caterpillars

Pest controllers are scheduled to start vacuuming up the nests of these caterpillars in May. But according to Mark Kusters of the VHG, most contractors only have enough protective suits to last the first few weeks. These suits are imported from China, but due to Covid-19, much less stock is coming in. "And what does come in is almost all intended for healthcare," Kusters said to NRC. 

Due to a worldwide shortage in protective equipment, entrepreneurs were also asked to donate what they have to the healthcare workers on the frontline of the fight against the coronavirus. According to Kusters, it is not clear exactly to what extent pest controllers responded to this call. But one oak processionary caterpillar fighter told NRC that he handed over 500 suits, about half his stock.

Due to the stinging hairs released by these caterpillars, the nests can't be vacuumed up without protective clothing. "That would really go wrong," Kusters said to the newspaper.