Caterpillar menace in Sikkim

Gangtok: April 04, 2012

With the onset of the summer the breeding of ‘Bag- Shelter Moth’ (Ochrogaster lunifer) also known as Processionary Caterpillar is creating much havoc across the State. Recently, a complaint was also received by the Wildlife Circle, East under the Department of Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management from school committees and local public of Ranipool regarding the threat caused by the said caterpillars.

Direct contact with the living or dead moth or their cocoons results in Dendrolimiasis. This is characterized by dermatitis, inflammatory arthritis, cartilage inflammations, chronic osteoarthritis and acute sclertitis (inflammation of the tough white outer coat of the eyeball).

Speaking on this issue the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Wildlife- East Ravi Kumar informed that on the receipt of the said complaint the officers of the Wildlife Division East were assigned immediately to inspect the area for necessary actions. It was found during the inspection, that the population of the caterpillar was so vast in number that it can create serious problems to the people of the area including the students. Hence the Wildlife Division reciprocating quickly carried out general public awareness programme to mitigate the said problem, he added.

Further the DFO acquainted that these caterpillars mostly feed on ‘Utis’ (Alnus nepalensis) trees also known as Nepalese Alder. The Processionary Caterpillars can be found resting/hiding on the base of medium to large sized tree trunks. Not only humans it can cause irritation to the animals as well, he underlined. Likewise, the female moths lay eggs which are covered by hairs and scales which are easily carried by the wind. These hairs and scales are enough to cause rashes and respiratory problems such as asthma, he added.
Highlighting the ways to bring down their population, the DFO said that one can use environmental friendly insecticides, but killing of such insects is not the ultimate solution for it can hamper the environmental cycle as they are also one of the main contributors of the eco system. Lastly he added that the outbreak of such caterpillars/ moths are very prevalent in the European and Australian countries, whereas in India this is present only in our State due to the suitable climatic conditions.




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