Sunday, February 19, 2006

Why some of the trees are dead

The 5.000 pine trees that were planted up at the Pedrera make the area special but they hold a hidden menace:-
Processional Pine Caterpillars (Procesionaria de los Pinos) are out in force at the moment around the Costa Blanca. They can be seen from the end of January through to April, although they at their most dangerous mid to late February. As well as causing much damage to pine forests they are a major danger to animals and in a lesser degree to humans.
They are not to be treated like the friendly English caterpillar as the very fine hairs are poisonous and extremely dangerous and they should never be touched. The first signs to be aware of are the silk cocoon style nests in the pine trees which are most harmful to the actual tree. It strips them of the pine needles and when hungry the caterpillars will leave their cocoon to seek out another un-infested tree on which to feed.
The best treatment at this stage when in the cocoon state is to spray with hair spray, then cover the cocoon and the affected part of the branch with a plastic bag. Then the final act is to cut down that part of the branch, place it on clear ground and burn it, making sure of course that the fire does not get out of control and spread. The caterpillars travel nose to tail in a line, hence the name ‘Processional.’ It is not unusual to see then in the evenings walking in lines going from tree to tree. If they drop on you or your pet do not brush them off with your hands as the effect is most unpleasant causing great irritation rash and pain and in some cases dogs, cats and people can suffer from shock. One of the main worries is that the caterpillars are still virulent even when dead so bearing this in mind do not hit them with sticks as the flying hairs are just as dangerous as the caterpillars themselves. If the caterpillars are marching along the ground it is better first to spray them with lighter fuel then set them alight as this method reduces the risk of flying hairs. If you have pine trees in your garden or nearby it is recommended that you keep anti-histamine tablets handy as an early treatment for any problems, as ingesting the hairs is extremely harmful for anyone please be careful with your dogs as they are most at risk by sniffing the ground where the caterpillars may be. Take particular care with eyes of both humans and animals because if affected the result can be very serious causing pain and swelling similar to bad cases of conjunctivitis.
Taken from The Leader – one of several free newspapers for the Costa Blanca.

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