Brown-tail moth caterpillars

small animal that causes big problems

The brown-tail moth caterpillar is found along the Westland coast. The caterpillars mainly live on sea buckthorn bushes in the dunes, but can end up on the beach when searching for other sources of food.

The problem with brown-tail moth caterpillars is that they are covered in stinging hairs that are too small to see with the naked eye. If the caterpillar is touched, it releases these stinging hairs. Because they are barbed, they can easily work their way into skin, eyes or airways. The hairs can also be carried by the wind, and end up on your skin, clothing or bath towel. If you touch these hairs, they could cause itching, inflammations, or blisters. Other problems include irritation of the eyes, shortness of breath, or flu-like feelings.

The brown-tail moth caterpillar can be recognised by its

  • black to dark brown colour
  • clumps of long tawny hairs
  • two bright red dots on the back


Enjoying the beach and the water, here are some lifeguard tips!
  1. Please only swim on places where it is allowed and safe.
    e.g. where lifeguards are on duty
  2. Make sure you are fit and healthy enough to swim and enjoy the water sports.
    And do not forget to put sun screan on!
  3. Never swim alone.
    Even the most experienced swimmer can get in trouble! (e.g. cramp)
  4. Don’t swim near rip currents
  5. Alcohol and swimming do not mix!
  6. Don’t use floatation devices during offshore winds.
  7. Dig no deep holes on the beach in the sand.
    Risk of collapse and suffocation.
  8. Keep to the designated areas for practising water sport.
  9. Do not jump of bridges, piers or any constructions.
    They are not designed for diving of jumping of in to the water.
  10. Always keep an eye on your children,
    As well as in the water as on the beach