Belgian military deployed to combat caterpillars
Fri Jun 1, 10:40 AM ET
A mini-platoon of soldiers will be deployed to the Belgian forests to tackle a plague of hairy caterpillars that are causing allergy outbreaks in humans.
Procession caterpillars, so-called for the way they march in lines through forests, are covered in long, toxic hairs which cause dermatitis and respiratory problems and account for up to 80 percent of doctor visits in the affected area.
“A bit less than a platoon, about 24 soldiers and airmen, will be deployed to help the fire brigade and civil protection authority combat the caterpillars,” Belgian military spokeswoman Ingrid Baeck said on Thursday.
She said Belgian armed forces were also deployed in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kosovo and the Congo but that they had a duty to help the local civil population.
Equipped with super-size blowtorches, the soldiers will spend six weeks in the eastern province of Limburg from Monday, waging a tree-by-tree war on the scourge of caterpillars, which cling in groups to trunks and branches.
“In teams of two people, they will go through the forests and burn the little animals off the trees,” said Baeck. “There have not been enough people to do this and I think we can make the difference.”
Previous attempts to rid forests of the caterpillars, which number in the millions thanks to mild weather, have included spraying pesticide using a helicopter and setting traps for the adult moths coated in female hormones.