Fear envelopes the Dutch people as masses of caterpillars multiply in the Netherlands.
Small caterpillars with poisonous hairs cause the outbreak. Hundreds of infected people who are currently being treated show signs of severe skin inflammation and asthma bouts.
The severity of the plague is such that an elderly woman in one Dutch town attacked the “rotten beasts” using a heat gun. The woman’s actions were caught in a video which is now making rounds in Netherland.
According to Bastiaan Meerburg, Dutch Pest and Wildlife Expertise Centre director, it’s the country’s first time to experience a plague in such magnitude. Meerburg said that in other parts of the country, the caterpillars have even tripled in number.
Those who came in contact with the caterpillar’s toxic prickle called setae complained of skin irritations, ugly blotches, difficulty in breathing, and vomiting.
Because of the gravity of the infestation, Minister Carola Schouten of the Dutch Agriculture commanded that a government website be created to answer people’s inquiries about the plague.
The website is laden with information about the plague, including what to do when you come in contact with the caterpillars and why the Dutch army has not been deployed to deal with the pesky crawlers.
The teachers and pupils of two primary schools near Rotterdam came in contact with the caterpillars which led to the temporary closure of the schools.
Similarly, hockey clubs in Veenendaal cancelled local tournaments due to the existence of caterpillar nests nearby.
The Netherlands has always been home to the oak processionary caterpillars, but over the last two decades, the species has increased and spread from south to north because of climate change.
According to Meerburg, the only area safe from the infestation now is the Wadden Islands, an archipelago located in the far northern Dutch coast.
Other reasons for the plague include the multiplication of oak trees in the country and a decrease in the number of the caterpillar’s predator.
By mid-July, the Dutch will find respite from the plague as the caterpillars enter their cocoons to grow into moths.
However, the caterpillar’s setae can last up to seven years and survive in a 600-degree Celsius environment, and it will take a particular industrial vacuum cleaner for it to be removed, prompting Meerburg to believe that the plague is a problem that will continue to persist.