Mediterranean menace preparing to march

Not the underside of a bird, but the home of a Mediterranean menace!

Not the underside of a bird, but the home of a Mediterranean menace!

If you go down to the woods today, it’s not a teddy bears’ picnic you’re like to find, but the nest of the processionary caterpillar – at least, if the woods are mainly pine trees. These are the habitat of this crawling Mediterranean menace and these strange almost candyfloss-like nests are where they plot their manoeuvres. At around this time of year, they’re preparing to leave the nest to pupate in the soil and when they do, watch out!

We first saw these on the appropriately named Pine Walk in Puerto Pollensa. We hadn’t a clue what they were then (it was our first spring on the island) but watched in fascination as these hairy striped beasties marched across our path, nose-to-tail (do caterpillars have noses?), like a well-disciplined army corps.

Processionary caterpillars Mallorca

On the march on Puerto Pollensa’s Pine Walk

Keep your pets away

They look like the sort of thing that a small boy would want to collect and keep in a shoebox under his bed. But processionary caterpillars are definitely to be avoided, as their hairs are irritant to humans and potentially dangerous to dogs and other animals. And you don’t even need to come into physical contact with a caterpillar: when under threat, they shed hairs which can be unknowingly ingested.

If you have a dog that has come into contact with these wee beasties, be sure to get it to the vet’s as quickly as possible.

For the time being, dog or no dog, we’ll be giving pine trees a wide berth . . . and joining the teddy bears’ picnic on the beach instead.

©Jan Edwards 2014