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pine processionary caterpillars

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Offline Technopat

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« on: February 26, 2007, 16:32 PM »
Greetings,
As it's that time of year again, and adding to what appears on the iberianature web site, I thought it might be interesting to attach a link I came across today:

http://web.cortland.edu/fitzgerald/PineProcessionary.html

They're fascinating, but don't be tempted to get too close to them - apparently their nasty little hairs are just as nasty when the creature's dead!
Regards,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Dave

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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2007, 18:46 PM »
Technopat
I am not big on names of creepy crawlies, but thanks for the info, I have often wondered, what those white tents
were on the end of pine branches, I knew they were bad, because my brother in law kept saying so, at last I
know why
Regards
Dave

Offline CDDI

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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2007, 07:53 AM »
The first time I saw processionary caterpillars was about 25 years ago,  and I scooped up about a hundred and had them cupped in my hands like a squirming tennis ball.  An hour later I was in "urgencias" at the nearest hospital -- Beware! Derek

Offline nick

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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2007, 08:42 AM »
Yes, when I arrived to Spain I was utterly unaware of their danger, but was luckily warned by a startled child as I was about to commit a similar act to Derek.

I don't think I've ever seen quite so many as this weekend on a trip to the Pre-Pyrenees, The path was strewn with them. We found one procession which must have been some six metres long, untangled - they twist, loop and turn back in on themselves. We calculated it was made up of some 1500 individuals. Their handiwork was everywhere. Most pines were affected. Many were dying. Last year was warm and this year is warmer still. Without their nemesis of long frosts, they will continue to expand.

Scroll down here for an informative 50 minute video on them in Spanish:

http://www.iberianature.com/material/spanishinvertebrates.html
« Last Edit: February 27, 2007, 09:07 AM by nick »
Nick
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2007, 09:54 AM »
Greetings,
Loath as I am to killing any kind of animal or plant, am wondering which is the lesser of the two evils here:
stamping out (no pun intended) these beautiful (aesthetically speaking) creatures in their six-metre long processions when we come across them, or letting them do what they do best: eat as much as they possibly can in the shortest possible space of time.

As Nick points out, without long frosts, the procesionaria are appearing in ever-larger numbers and are thus threatening pine trees/woods/forests. Should we take it upon ourselves to save the trees or not interfere with the course of nature?

Would appreciate some feedback on this moral dilemma, as I often wonder who I am to interfere with the c. of n. (other than using my car to visit the countryside, and so on, of course). At the risk of starting a flame war with eucalyptus-lovers, I suppose I wouldn't worry so much if they were voracious eaters of other trees ...
Regards,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline nick

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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2007, 09:58 AM »
Stamp on the blighters
Nick
http://iberianature.com/barcelona/history-of-barcelona/spanish-civil-war-tour-in-barcelona/
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2007, 10:12 AM »
Nick,
Is that a 'qualified' opinion or merely the result of nearly being stung nastily once?
Technopat (nature-lover)
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline CDDI

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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2007, 11:14 AM »
Is there any data on natural control of the catrerpillars by any bird species?

Offline nick

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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2007, 11:18 AM »
Nick
http://iberianature.com/barcelona/history-of-barcelona/spanish-civil-war-tour-in-barcelona/
Spanish Civil War Tours in Barcelona
http://www.iberianature.com/
A guide to the environment, climate, wildlife, & nature of Spain
The Amazon/Forum Bookshop - lend us a hand
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/shop/index.htm
And also now The Natural History of Britain
http://iberianature.com/brita

Offline Clive

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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2007, 12:04 PM »
Hola,

The pine processionary problem is a typical example of bad land management and policies that waste money. I gave up counting how much money was sitting outside the local headquarters of the Grazalema park last week tied up in company 4 X 4's for one persons use.

This is an imported creature (first noticed in Malta I believe) and it could have easily been dealt with back in the 70's and 80's using a bit of fore sight and management. But as usual the policy is to wait until something gets to plague proportions and then try to annihilate it using the armery of chemicals at their disposal.

A few years ago we lived in the Sierra de Bermeja close to Estepona on the Costa del sol. A place with 17 endemic species of plant several on the "lista roja"

The local guys there dealt with the pine processionary by spraying the whole area with a concoction of chemicals from a plane. 40 percent organo phosphate, 40 percent organo nitrate and 20 percent diesel oil as a fixative.

They sprayed The Sierra de Bermeja (1210 hectares) plus our house and the whole Rio Padron area. The guy actually flew up the river spraying all the way. A neighbour of ours was caught up on the hill with his goats and he was drenched with the stuff and didn't eat for a week. some of his goats got sick as well. (they recovered)

This stuff killed everything that eats leaves because the fixative sticks it to the leaves and it gets digested. The blackbirds had a field day eating all the dead bugs and we took one dead blackbird to a vets for analysis. The result was that the birds insides had turned to mush. like they exploded.

Before this creature became a plague it could have been manually removed in the small areas it started out in and vigilance would have kept it in check. Even now I see them in town public gardens and the town councils doing nothing. A simple "Grua" or cherry picker type vehicle and some decent breathing aparatus and they could be manually cut from the trees at least where they are accessible like in towns and next to roads. There is no money though for this I guess because it is all being wasted on other stuff.

Heres and awful quality picture of the plane that sprayed us. Sorry about the rant but this subject really gets me mad.

Clive
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2007, 12:18 PM »
Clive,
Nasty experience!
I take it then that you belong to the Nick camp that is all for stamping the blighters out to prevent us all being drenched in whatever stuff the powers-that-be, in their wisdom, put in their sprays.
Will put me wellies on!
Regards,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Clive

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« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2007, 17:09 PM »
Hola,

Working the thoughts further from this thread

http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php?topic=35.new;boardseen#new

Off the top of my head.

The caterpillar has stages called instars and at the beginning of each instar it sheds its old skin and grows in size

At about this time of year (spring) the 5th instar caterpillars start to drop off of the pine trees and form the familiar processions. What they are actually doing is looking for some soft ground to burrow into so that they can Chrysalis until the temperature and other conditions are right.  As far as i know they can stay in the ground for a few years and I think that the ones that come out from the ground as moths are from (at the very least) the previous years processions.

It seems that when they are in the caterpillar stage they are pretty formidable and not very edible but what about when they are in the ground or when they are flying as moths.

I am thinking bats and boars.

Who lives in an area with loads of wild boar? Are there big colonies of processionaries in that area or has the boar eaten them whilst they are in the ground.

What about bats? Is the moth poisonous as well?

There are pheromone traps available and After my encounter with the crop spraying technique I contacted the company that was setting up test sites all over Europe. It's a British company but I've lost the contact. Any one know about this company?

There is also a parasite that is used but I'm not sure what life cycle stages the parasite attacks or whether it's being used a lot.

Clive

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Offline Sue

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« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2007, 21:04 PM »

Hi All,

there is some good information on this site for host plants, chemicals used, optional control etc.

http://www.pierroton.inra.fr/IEFC/bdd/patho/patho_affiche.php?id_fiche=43&langue=

Regards, Sue
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Offline Sue

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« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2007, 21:21 PM »

Hi All,

a bit of reading material for the night-owls amongst us... this one is about natural methods of pest control using imported parasites etc.

http://www.fao.org/docrep/a7218e/a7218e08.htm

Regards, Sue
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Offline Sue

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« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2007, 21:35 PM »

Hi All,

about two weeks back, on a road near Ronda town we saw that young pine trees (a planted avenue) had had their lower limbs cut. This is standard practice to avoid a build up of dry matter that would encourage fires.

As we passed, a team of workers were loading the cut branches (some dry, many with greenery) onto a truck. We were amazed to see none wearing protective clothing..gloves, masks...nothing , yet there were many nests on the material they were throwing around!

Today we passed again and clearance work has made no progress. We can but presume at this point that they were made aware of the defensive abilities of these little creatures the hard way.

Regards, Sue
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Offline Jill

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« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2007, 22:21 PM »
I've heard that there are now processionary OAK caterpillars in that place that we're not supposed to mention, on the other side of the cold, grey river. I suppose they must be related.

Jill

Offline Sue

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« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2007, 22:36 PM »


Hi Jill,

yes they are similar caterpillars. I think i'm right in saying that a certain famous gardens..sounds like the letter Q... imported some unwittingly and they are happy in their new found, oak covered country!

Regards, Sue
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Offline shiner

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« Reply #17 on: March 26, 2007, 16:26 PM »
I have heard that Hoopoos predate on these lothesome littles beasties, if so, when and how?

Offline Sue

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« Reply #18 on: March 26, 2007, 22:20 PM »

Hi Shiner,

it will be interesting to hear if anyone has actually seen this occur. We once mentioned it to a birder who then looked it up. She had an A-Z bird encyclopedia in 12 volumes. There was no mention of Hoopoes eating processionary caterpillars, therefore the subject could be broached no further.

Perhaps when they are in the cocoon stage beneath the ground they are less dangerous, after all this is how the Hoopoe feeds, using his long beak to probe into the soil.

Regards, Sue
Thinking of visiting the beautiful Sierra de Grazalema in Andalucia?
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Offline nick

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« Reply #19 on: March 26, 2007, 22:33 PM »
From today's El Mundo

Los expertos piden medidas preventivas contra la plaga de procesionaria del pino

http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2007/03/26/ciencia/1174908792.html
Nick
http://iberianature.com/barcelona/history-of-barcelona/spanish-civil-war-tour-in-barcelona/
Spanish Civil War Tours in Barcelona
http://www.iberianature.com/
A guide to the environment, climate, wildlife, & nature of Spain
The Amazon/Forum Bookshop - lend us a hand
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/shop/index.htm
And also now The Natural History of Britain
http://iberianature.com/brita