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Paintball bid to protect tourists from caterpillars

City uses ‘sexual confusion’ to target pine processionary moths and stop future stinging problems

Riviera tourist hotspot Nice is moving to protect residents and visitors in one of the city’s top viewpoints from processionary caterpillars and the severe skin irritations they can cause.

Paintball-firing pest control agents have been brought in to target moths to cut future caterpillar numbers on the Colline du Château, which gives a panoramic view over the Baie des Anges and is one most photographed spots on the Côte d’Azur.

With the warm spring weather the pine trees in the park have had caterpillars nesting in them and they came down the trunks in their customary processions and scattering their dangerous stinging hairs all over the grounds.

People walking on the numerous paths in the park could suffer severe skin blisters and the hairs are especially dangerous for children and animals.

Now agents from pest control firm Nufarm France are using pheromone paintball rifles to spread ‘sexual confusion’ as they target pine trees on the hill to stop the moths from mating.

The paintballs contain an environmentally safe pheromone wax that stops male moths from finding female mates. This means there will be fewer eggs and fewer caterpillars.

Nufarm area manager Laurent Morano told Connexion that the caterpillars had been active in spring but they were now targeting the moths. "This is the mating season and we want to reduce the numbers of eggs and, thus, caterpillars next season." 

He said that cutting their numbers would have benefits in future years as their stinging hairs remained in the soil and could give severe stings for several years afterwards.

They carried out the same operation last year and cut caterpillar numbers by 80%, which meant fewer hairs being dropped.

Pine processionary caterpillars were originally confined to the hot south of France but have now spread north to as far as Paris. They have many natural predators such as great tit, coaltit and great spotted cuckoo and you can encourage these into your property.

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