Hairy beasts release agonizing poison from thousands of tiny spines

A plague of poisonous caterpillars has left hundreds of cyclists in hospital over the weekend in agony.

Allergic reactions to Processionary caterpillars struck down 300 riders in Sevilla, as their arrival coincided with an annual city bike ride to La Corchuela park in celebration of Andalucia Day.

The feeling has been likened to "lying in a patch of stinging nettles while being bitten all over by mosquitoes, and the feeling lasting for three days, then lessening for a few more days,” by the Flickr user Premasagar, who posted photos of the weals the beasts gave him online.

More than 200 cyclists were attended by emergency medical units at the park, suffering from allergic reactions to the caterpillars.

The nearby ‘Nuestra Senora de la Nieves’ health centre attended to a further 90 cyclists with the same allergic symptoms over the weekend, according to The Olive Press.

The first deputy mayor of Los Palacios, Carmen Maria Molina, has demanded ‘an urgent explanation from those responsible for La Corchuela park for what happened’, saying that the park authorities did not alert them to the presence of the caterpillars.

The chief of emergencies at the town hall visited the park the week before the event but was still not warned about the caterpillars.

Processionary caterpillars have long prickly hairs contain an urticating, or irritating, protein called thaumetopoein that often kill pets, and causes irritation to humans.

Although there is no real anti-poison, treatment with cortisone, blood pressure stimulants and pain-fighting medicine provide some relief.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.