Living With Climate Change

Pine Processionary Caterpillars

Pine Processionary Caterpillars
Photo: Asqueladd

The Pine Processionally Moth, Thaumetopoea pityocampa, has historically been restricted to regions of Europe with a Mediterranean climate. The caterpillars are active in winter. They have adaptations that prevent freezing above -7 degrees C. (Water with no salts or antifreeze will freeze at 0 C.) Between -17 C and -7 C, the caterpillars freeze solid, but are not killed. Their bodies can freeze and unfreeze depending on temperature. Temperatures below -17 C are lethal.

Cold tolerance allows the caterpillars to feed and develop throughout most of the winter. During brief cold snaps the caterpillars can survive freezing and unfreezing. Regions where winter temperatures consistently go below -17 C exclude Thaumetopoea pityocampa. In recent decades, the range of Thaumetopoea pityocampa has extended northward*. This is due to climate change and winters that no longer have temperatures below -17 C in the regions of expansion. As climate change continues, the range is predicted to expand further to the north.

*Andrea Battisti Stig Larsson and Alain Roques. Processionary Moths and Associated Urtication Risk: Global Change–Driven Effects. Annu. Rev. Entomol. 2017. 62:323–42

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Caterpillar Blogging, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Living With Climate Change

  1. Pingback: Living With Climate Change – Entomo Planet

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