Skin reactions to pine processionary caterpillar thaumetopoea pityocampa schiff

Domenico Bonamonte, Caterina Foti, Michelangelo Vestita, Gianni Angelini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pine caterpillar, Thaumetopoea pityocampa Schiff, is a phyto- and xylophagous lepidopteran, responsible for the delay in the growth or the death of various types of pines. Besides nature damage, pine caterpillar causes dermatological reactions in humans by contact with its irritating larvae hairs. Although the dermatitis occurs among outdoor professionals, it is primarily extraprofessional. Contamination generally occurs in pinewoods, rarely in cities. Means of contamination comprise direct contact with the nest or the processional caterpillar and indirect contact with air dispersed hairs. The dermatitis is generally observed in late spring and particularly from April to June, among campers and tourers. The eruption has its onset 1-12 hours after contact with the hairs and presents with intense and continuous itching. Morphologically, it is strophulus-like and consists of papulous, excoriated, and pinkish lesions on an oedematous base. Diagnosis is usually straightforward. The pathogenetic mechanism of the affection is mechanical, pharmacological, and allergic in nature. Besides skin, T. pityocampa Schiff can involve the eyes and rarely the airways. Despite the considerable damages to humans and nature, pine caterpillar infestation is an underestimated problem; medical literature lists few studies, and often relevant information is referred to local media and popular wisdom.

Original languageEnglish
Article number867431
Publication statusPublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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