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Aussie woman’s disastrous discovery outside front door: ‘Turned my stomach’

Procession caterpillars can cause irritation with humans' skin if coming into contact with them.

Australia is well known for its vibrant wildlife, but most people would agree that there are many species you wouldn’t want turning up on your doorstep — and one Queensland resident got the shock of her life after finding "over 300" hairy caterpillars making themselves at home by her front door.

Amanda, from Hervey Bay, got a call from her mum earlier this month asking her to come round to take a look at a "hairy nest" of caterpillars that emerged "overnight".

While Amanda admits she didn’t think much of it at first, she agreed to pop around anyway. "When I got there I was like 'oh my god'," she told Yahoo News Australia. “I reckon there were about 300 or 400 of them.’

Left: Procession caterpillars on a woman's front doorstep. Right: The mess left behind after the caterpillars were removed.
A mass of procession caterpillars were found outside a woman's front door in Queensland and left a mess. Source: Supplied

The caterpillars had formed a mass on the brickwork by her mum’s front door, with Amanda saying it looked like a creature out of Netflix's Stranger Things.

Resident told to 'spray' critters

Unsure what to do, Amanda called her mum’s real estate agent for advice, who told her to spray the mass of caterpillars. "I rang her real estate agent and I said 'I think we need pest control' but she said just spray them," she said.

So Amanda did what was recommended to her and watched as the caterpillars began "falling" off the wall. "It was turning my stomach, it was horrible," she recalls.

While Amanda managed to remove the critters, she faced a "traumatic" clean-up job. "I went out and I had to get a shovel and pick up hundreds of them," she said. "I shovelled them and broomed them into the box and I sprayed it again, trying to be humane."

Expert confirms critters are procession caterpillars

Dr Tom White, an entomologist with the University of Sydney confirmed to Yahoo that the critters are Ochrogaster lunifer, a sub-species of the bag-shelter moth.

They are commonly known as "procession caterpillars" due to how they congregate in a line, but can cause irritation with humans' skin if coming into contact with them.

"They’re on the move this time of year in the search for a place to burrow and pupate over the winter," Dr White told Yahoo News. "Then they’ll emerge as adults once the weather warms up, fly around as adults for a few weeks, then lay the eggs that’ll become caterpillars again later in the year."

The caterpillars are known for travelling in single file. Source: Supplied
The caterpillars are known for travelling in single file. Source: Supplied

He said the "very cool" cycle takes about a year. While Dr White suggests leaving the caterpillars alone because their hairs can be an irritant if touched.

"Don’t touch them and do keep kids and pets away, as their hairs can be a real irritant. But they’ll generally move on on their own, as they’re looking for a warm place in the soil (often beneath a tree) to pupate."

Emeritus Professor Myron Zalucki told Yahoo News that he thought the behaviour of the caterpillars was "a little odd". "I have not seen a nest constructed in this type of situation," he said.

Amanda says that after removing the caterpillars, the wall has been left stained and despite pressure washing the area, can’t get rid of the brown mess.

Dr White suggested what was left behind is likely frass, aka faeces, along with skin and hairs, he said using a wet soapy cloth might help.

“Some gloves and a spare mask are a good idea, again since those hairs are an irritant,” he adds.

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