Had intended to follow up previous post on reasons not to blog but called away for past week to sick parent in deepest, darkest part of U.K., far from civilisation, mobile reception, internet - everything. Help!
On my return, immediately went to look for Lola only to learn she was at the vet's. Very sick. A very sick bitch. And I’m a very angry … person.
But first , a brief word of explanation. Everywhere in southern Andalucia, you see at this time wild mimosa shrubs turning yellow - masses of tiny pom pom-like buds, so delicate in their golden beauty. Yet another sign of spring. But where there’s beauty, there’s often a beast.
No, not a politician this time. ( Sarkozy anyone?) And as for Andalucia, you can take your pick. (At the last count, there are over a dozen corruption cases currently going through the courts.)
No, it’s the Processional Pine Moth Caterpillar. And so you can be assured this is no April Fool’s jape, that’s the beast above. And why am I so angry? Because Lola, Senora Noriega’s gorgeous canine is, once again, their victim.
These creatures (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) start out in silky, candy floss ball-style nests in pine trees which they strip of their needles, then leave to seek out another on which to feed. From mid-February onwards for about two months, they wind their way in lines up and down trees and along the ground.
They always process single-file, head-to-tail (sometimes metres in length) apparently because of a tactile impulse from bristly, hair-like sensory protuberances on the gut of the one in front. You mustn’t walk on them or disturb them since the bristly, hairy bits easily break off and float away producing a severe toxic reaction in humans and pets if inhaled, eaten or even touched. There have been reported cases of dogs losing part of the tongue, even dying, after ingesting them.
For this reason, a lowish fence was erected to cordon off, and keep Lola away from, the offending pine - the source of the bite that landed her at the vet’s last year. But they’ve struck again. ‘Processionals’ don’t observe niceties like fences, covering greater distances and moving ever closer than before. And Lola’s not a sufficiently canny canine to resist strangers bearing gifts on their hairy guts…
Footnote: In an experiment, these creatures were placed in a circle around the edge of a terracotta pot so that there was no lead caterpillar. Guess what? They followed each other around in circles for days, in all weathers, going nowhere. Simply the impulse to follow leading them on and on and on.
A bit like those politicians*, or what?
*Except, natch, for Tom Watson MP (an unforgivable, solipsistic oversight!)