‘The time has come the Walrus said to talk of many things: Of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – Of cabbages – and kings- And why the sea is boiling hot – And whether pigs have wings and why Processionary Caterpillars are still amongst God’s things”. Alright I admit it the bit about Processionary Caterpillars was put in by me. But I ask you, where else could you find great literature allied with gardening. I feel I am wasted on this blog; I’m going to write a book or start a night time radio programme aimed at insomniac gardeners who are worried about Processionary Caterpillars.
28th December: Things I have been doing lately.
🐛 Destroying Processionary Caterpillar nests. If you live in Spain or some other part of the globe that is blighted by Processionary Caterpillars then you will know the danger these blighters present both to humans and animals. The Pine Processionary Caterpillar is the larval stage of the Pine Moth. The moth itself is harmless if a bit ugly (but I know a lot of people like that). The problems is that it lays its eggs high up in Pine trees across Southern Europe, the eggs eventually hatch into caterpillars that feed voraciously on the trees during the night, but then retire to nests during the day that resemble large sacks of cotton wool. These hang from the trees and can contain hundreds of caterpillars who successfully hide from predators during the day.
The problem comes when the caterpillars descend from the trees and form large processions, sometimes 20 foot long with the lead caterpillar leading all the others in a poisonous conga that resembles a large snake. Each caterpillar is covered with long hairs that are extremely dangerous to both humans and animals, particularly dogs; (cats are too clever to bother). If you disturb the procession then the caterpillars release the hairs which float in the wind and can cause anaphylactic shocks in humans and animals if inhaled. It is quite common for dogs in Spain to curiously approach the procession and sniff it, only to receive a nose full of poisonous hair. In many cases this can result in dogs having to have operations to remove parts of their tongue. Most caring dog owners carry special antihistamines between January and March which is peak season for the caterpillars.
To stop all this happening you need to cut down and destroy the nests before the caterpillars descend and begin to process. The photo below shows me ready to start destroying the nests; note all the protective gear, this is necessary if you want to avoid any problems.
The basic idea is that you cut down the nests and then destroy them with all the caterpillars still inside. Look away now if you are of a sensitive nature. The first photo below shows a nest in the tree. The second photo shows your intrepid blogger bravely cutting it down ready for destruction; they have been known to land on my head.
Once you have the nests on the ground then you need to burn them. There is no other safe way to destroy them. During the burning process you must make sure that your nose and mouth are covered as hairs will float away and could enter your mouth or nose. The first photo below shows the nests contained in a metal container ready for burning. This is important in Campoverde as we live right in the middle of a Pine forest with the ground covered with very combustible pine needles that will soon give you a nice forest fire if you are not careful. The second photo shows the conflagration. I will not show you the aftermath, but it important that you burn every part of the nest and it’s contents and then leave the ashes covered overnight before disposing in a closed container (a tied up plastic bag is fine as long as there are no Whales around), don’t consider putting them on the compost heap.
I hope I haven’t scared you? If you deal with Processionary caterpillars every year then you will gradually reduce the nests (this year we only have two). If you fail to deal with them then eventually you will have ugly dead pine trees and no dogs.
I was going to go on and write about more cheerful things I have been doing but I am emotionally exhausted and Cruella (my wife) has just announced dinner is ready; just the usual old stuff: “Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing”. I expect you are having left over Turkey!