136 – Attack of the Processionary Pine Moths and the Continuing Mole Problem

Nothing I’ve seen here over the past six months has been as curious as what I saw yesterday. Having finished the first mow of the season, I was inspecting the mole situation when I saw a hundred orange and black caterpillars joined end-to-end like a giant boot lace.

But more on that in a minute. First of all an update on the mole situation that is getting out of hand. Possibly chronic, seeing as a city’s worth of them moved in overnight leaving the lawn with about as much grass on it as a truckers lay-by.

I could be in deep trouble. The owners are arriving back here in April for their Easter holidays with their three children and I think they might wonder what the hell is going on. ‘Hey Oggers, mate, you know that lawn we left you? Where is it?

Fact is I’m not sure what to do with them (the moles that is, not the owners), except to smash their mounds flat each morning with my spade and hope they go away.  I don’t want to poison them for the same reason I don’t want to shoot the deer: I like them.

But there must be some solution otherwise my dream of holding an international croquet tournament here this summer will be thwarted and I’ll have to hold some sort of model 4×4 off-road competition for Jeremy Clarkson look-a-likes instead.

But I can decide that later. Back to the Processionary Pine Moths, whose larval stage were crawling all over the place in long chains. Look at the picture below. Scary eh?

pine moths caterpillars

I thought that would have you crying into your milk. They link together like this to look for soft soil to bury themselves in to pupate. Arising in the summer as adult moths that live for only a day in which time they have to mate and lay their eggs in the pine trees. In January the larvae hatch to construct these odd tent like cocoons in the branches.

pine moths cocoon

From these spooky looking constructions they come and go as they please for a few months, fattening themselves up on pine needles until March when they leave the host tree in the strange processions you saw.

They are officially classed as pests as they can strip a pine forest in no time at all, and according to the Pine Forest Association of France’s website, I should kill. But as I’ve already discussed, there will be no killing round here. Especially as there’s only one pine tree in the whole garden. And it looks fine to me. Hardly cause to call in the forestry SAS.

The moths can be taken quite easily by bats, but the caterpillars have very few predators owing to the dagger length spines they have on their backs, as I found out when I tried to pick one up to stroke it.

This morning I went back to see if they were still there. But they had already buried themselves and gone into pupation. I’m fine with that though, as I’m already looking  forward to seeing them again in the summer as moths. Quite incredible nature, isn’t it?

Right, back to the moles…where’s my spade…


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