Yes, Spring is definitely upon us now, and fiercely it comes. Longer days, warm temperatures, new life.. but when the seasons’ normal evolution is disrupted – the non-Winter we have just experienced – new life is not always necessarily a good thing. Blossoming trees and bright flowers, buzzing bees and beautiful butterflies, that’s all fine and dandy – particularly the lepidopterans appearing in numbers quite early, common species like brimstones, tortoiseshells, peacocks and fritillaries. It often seems to me that the loveliness of life is encapsulated in the fluttering flight of butterflies. However, in this season of renewed life and processions – next week is Easter – it is not only penitents who are on the march; the lepidopterans are at it too, only in caterpillar form. I am of course talking about the pine processionary caterpillar.
Last week in Fuenfría valley, during a walk of little more than an hour, we came across at least three serious processions made up of fifty to sixty caterpillars. The longest numbered over seventy. It is in its way a spectacle of the natural world, though perhaps not such a beautiful one. The reaction it provokes is similar to that of seeing a snake. The human animal starts back, feeling instinctively that this is not a good thing to be too close to. And the reaction is justified. Coming into contact with the hairs of the processionary caterpillar can be quite dangerous. They contain an urticating toxin which causes extreme itching, rash type inflammation, even severe allergic reactions. For inquisitive dogs or cats it can be fatal.
So, watch out if you are visit Fuenfría this Spring.