Oranges and Sunshine

When we first came to Mallorca, it was one of our first ambitions to have a lemon tree in our garden. We pretty soon succeeded in planting our very own specimen.

Only much later we came to realize that the sweet aroma of orange blossoms was an equally important addition to our perfumed garden, if not much more so. You have to smell an orange tree in full bloom to know the fragrant smell; words alone can’t describe it. Orange blossoms are all prim and virginal when the buds are shut tight. But when those petals part and the plump and sticky, frilly and feathery bits of pistil and stamen spill out, orange blossoms look just a bit promiscuous. Pollinating bees everywhere respond to this sensory scent like a moth is attracted to the consuming flame.

Not all that long ago, Mallorcans were busy producing Agua de Azahar or Flor de Taronger, an orange flower water also known as Fleur d’Oranger. I imagine that this stimulant was first initiated by the Maurish settlers on this island, hundreds of years ago. Today, no such tonic water is produced here in Mallorca. One can buy Fleur d’Oranger in a Morrocan corner shop, though, and a cheaper version in one or the other supermarket. Fleur d’Oranger is a welcome ingredient for some baking and patisserie pastries and can also be used in cooking or to flavour drinks. In North Africa you will be offered Fleur d’Oranger to clean your hands as you enter a host’s house.

The photo was taken in Costitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 1st, 2012. The time was 12:46:59.

Oranges and Sunshine

The Picudo Rojo Weevil Disaster

Over the last ten years Mallorca’s palm trees have been suffering from an invasion of the Picudo Rojo, a weevil or snout beetle known by its Latin name as Rhynchophorus ferrugineus.

In the last two or three weeks I have seen some 40 dead palm trees in Manacor and Palma which had been alive and well six months earlier. Five areas in Mallorca are particularly affected by the beetle’s invasion: Manacor/Algaïda, Palma, Santanyí, Santa Maria and Pollença/Alcúdia.

The beetle is a quite attractive looking insect but in its effect on palm trees from the Phoenix canariensis to Phoeniceae and Washingtonia, it is quite devastating. One can rarely see the beast as it is deeply burrowed into the heart of the palm tree. When one sees that the palm tree has dead and dry leaves the damage is already done and the tree can not be saved.

Last Sunday at the Oratori de Sant Blai, the Govern de les Illes Balears presented ample information about the disease including some live larvae, nests and the fully developed beetle. Sadly, no remedy is known to prevent the disease from spreading. Some experts say that in twenty years time there will be no palm trees left in Mallorca. Sad, really.

The photos were taken near Campos, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 5th, 2012. The time was 12:39:08 and 12:38:46, respectively.

The Picudo Rojo Weevil Disaster

The Ironman Mallorca Triathlon

Yesterday, some 1.698 participants competed for the first ever Mallorcan Ironman, a triathlon competition that covered a swim course of 1.9 km, a cycling distance of 90.1 km up to Selva and down through Inca and Sa Pobla, and a running circuit of 21.1 km in and around Alcúdia. The Ironman was won by the German, Andreas Raelert in a fast 03:53:07, and British Emma Lidbury in the female category with an amazing time of 04:33:00. Congratulations.

The sports event somehow altered the travel plans I had for my Saturday afternoon. I had wanted to spend some time in Alcúdia but, my ambitions seemed somewhat ill-timed with Mallorca’s Northeast being sealed off for any traffic for most of the morning and midday. I finally made it somehow from Muro to Sa Pobla and on a diverted secondary road to Inca but, could not continue to anywhere near Alcúdia or Pollença, until about 13h35 when we were allowed to leave Inca heading for Selva and Lluc.

In the end I had a great unplanned time in the Jardí Botànic (Botanical Garden) in Lluc, a small oasis with some 200 wild plants native to Mallorca all shown in a natural setting. There, we watched some amazing Macroglossum stellatarum, known as the Hummingbird Hawk-moth, feeding off flowers of a sage bush and pollinating them in the act. Sometimes an unpredicted detour can bring some unexpected rewards. If you should be interested, the Botanical Garden is open daily from 10h00 to 13h00 and from 15h00 to 18h00, except Sundays. Admission is free but, a small donation would be expected for the upkeep.

I finally got to Alcúdia at around 18h00 by which time all I wanted was something to eat. I had left Felanitx shortly after 10h30 and had not eaten anything since, quite unlike the Hummingbird Hawk-moth.

The photo (top) was taken in Lluc, Escorca, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 14th, 2011. The time was 14:40:42. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of photo.net and the photographer, Tom Lusk. Thank you very much.

The Ironman Mallorca Triathlon

The Processionary Caterpillar

The processionary caterpillar (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) is out in force again now, here in Mallorca. The insect is active only during the colder times of the year, spending the warm summer months as a pupa buried in the ground. By March, the caterpillars are fully grown. Now they leave their nest, following each other in long, head to tail processions (see photo above) and seeking pupation sites in the soil.

Allow me to quote from someone who knows more about the little creature than I do:

… so-called because of their habit of walking head to tail in search of food, the processionary caterpillar is probably the most dangerous insect in the Mediterranean region. They are generally reddish-brown in colour and covered with long grey/white hairs known as setae. There may be hundreds of caterpillars seen walking nose to tail, winding along roadways, paths or golfing greens. The caterpillars are covered with brittle hairs, which cause a severe reaction when they come into contact with human skin. The hairs remain toxic even after the caterpillar has died and can also be carried in the air causing respiratory damage if breathed in. The caterpillars present a high risk during spring and are most virulent from late February. After pupation the resultant moth is an important food source for many animals including bats, birds and reptiles. The adult moths are not toxic.

The caterpillars feed on pine needles and cause devastation to pine forests. Take extra care when walking among pine trees from February onwards, especially if you have children or pets with you.

The hairs when in contact with the skin can cause severe irritation or anaphylaxis. General symptoms include severe itching, also localised pain which may spread to other parts of the body. The inhalation of hairs can cause serious respiratory problems and severe irritability of the eyes, stinging and symptoms of conjunctivitis which can lead to long-term eye damage. Children and the elderly can be more susceptible as they have a weaker resistance to the poison. Many victims show signs of shock. In serious cases, anaphylactic shock, increased heart palpitations and respiratory difficulty can lead to fatal consequences.

An ice pack will help to reduce the inflammation, take Antihistamine tablets as an early treatment. Apply antiseptic lotion topically to sooth the skin and seek medical assistance immediately. The effects can last many weeks or months. Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation as well as other treatments depending on individual circumstances and antihistamine tablets for allergic reactions.

The very first rule is never to touch these caterpillars and do not burn the nests as the resulting smoke is toxic if inhaled. All pets should be kept well away from the ‘processionals’ as they may try to eat them.

The heeding is quoted from British naturalist Dr Vejay K. Singh as published on the theolivepress.es website. Many thanks for the information.

The photo (top) was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 6th, 2011. The time was 18:33:35. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of web.cortland.edu.

Thank you very much.

The Processionary Caterpillar

Crickets’ Greetings

In the absence of any reindeer here in Mallorca, a photo of an Oecanthinae (tree cricket) will have to do for today. The teeny green fellow is bringer of festive greetings to you all with much appreciation and many thanks for your loyal company and fidelity here on this Mallorca Daily Photo Blog.

Merry Christmas. Bon Nadal. Feliz Navidad.

Molts d’anys.

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 18th, 2010. The time was 12:50:18.

Crickets’ Greetings

The Moth With The Startling Skull

Keeping one’s eyes open is one of the prerequisites for keeping a daily photo blog alive for an uninterrupted 42 months. Like yesterday, when on my way to the car I spotted this amazing Death’s-Head Hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos) outside our front door. Quite suitably, the Spanish call this moth the Esfinge de la muerte (Catalan: Esfinx de la mort), possibly for it belonging to the Sphingidae family and, obviously, referring to the skull-like pattern on the insect’s thorax. I understand this moth is one of the largest one around; it certainly looked biggish when I spotted this male specimen. The moth was dead when I found it.

Wikipedia has us know that the moth ‘has numerous … unusual features. It has the ability to emit a loud squeak if irritated. The sound is produced by expelling air from its proboscis. It often accompanies this sound with flashing its brightly marked abdomen in a further attempt to deter its predators. It is commonly observed raiding beehives for honey at night. Unlike the other species of Acherontia, it only attacks colonies of the well-known Western honey bee, Apis mellifera. It is attacked by guard bees at the entrance, but the thick cuticle and resistance to venom allow it to enter the hive. It is able to move about in hives unmolested because it mimics the scent of the bees‘. Poor old Apis.

You may know this moth with the startling skull from Thomas Harris’s novel and Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s performance on the Big Screen: The Silence Of The Lambs.

The photo (top) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 15th, 2010. The time was 10:47:54. The photo (centre) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of flickr and Javier Taibo. The movie poster image was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of Wikipedia and Orion Pictures Corporation. Thank you very much, and

muchas gracias.

The Moth With The Startling Skull

Noxious Fumes Over Felanitx

According to the International Palm Society, the Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (Red Palm Weevil) has somehow become the most important pest of the date palm in the Mediterranean area.

I do not dispute the seriousness of the matter nor the vileness of the harmful insect but, I am alarmed about the careless handling of noxious fumes in Felanitx in the attempt to exterminate the small invertebrate. I have it from a reliable source (a local commercial tree surgeon) that the Ajuntament de Felanitx enlisted the help of a specialist toxic pest raider from Palma a few months ago to have all public palm trees in Felanitx doused with potentially lethal chemicals. This activity is undertaken in the early hours of the morning at regular intervals, possibly on a monthly basis, between the months of March and November. Amongst the insecticides used are products such as Tiametoxam, Dimetoate and Chlorpyrifos. It is known that breathing or ingesting Chlorpyrifos, for instance, may result in a variety of nervous system effects, ranging from headaches, blurred vision, and salivation to seizures, coma, and even death, depending on the amount and length of exposure.

I would actually prefer the Rhynchophorus ferrugineus to survive, even at the expense of a large number of palm trees dying, to us or our children being harmed by the uncontrolled use of questionable and toxic substances. The Plaça d’Espanya in Felanitx, for instance, is regularly fumigated in a clandestine and irresponsible manner in the early hours of the morning, just hours before the six bars around the square are frequented by scores of adults having their morning coffees, including yours truly, and not long before dozens of children make their way to their local school or guardería (nursery school).

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Spain. The date: October 9th, 2010. The time was 00:10:40.

Noxious Fumes Over Felanitx