All over the Island of Ibiza there are little
white plastic cups hanging from the branches of the pine trees.
It is not because some funny fellow has
left a glass of sangria for the local Gnomes (the "Berrugets").
The reason is not so funny. These cups contain
a wad of cotton impregnated with sticky stuff and pheromones
of a female insect, to try to get the attention of males of
a type of butterfly "Thaumetopoea pityocampa".
This specimen lives only on pine trees in
silky nests (like spiders), is the size of an orange or bigger
and hangs from the new branches. They eat the new pine needles
and perforate the bark, which is why here on the Pitiusas
(the islands of pine trees) they feel like they are in Paradise.
The butterfly was introduced to the Island
about twenty years ago, in the area of Cala Vadella-Cala Tarida,
with the plants that were imported for the gardens of a new
By the time we realised what was happening,
a few dozen-pine trees were already dry, sucked to death by
the caterpillars of this insect. As the trees were already
dead and all concentrated in a relatively small area; they
set a controlled fire on them, so the main focus could be
controlled. But it was too late. The butterflies had flown
all over the Island. Now the only thing we can do is keep
their numbers down with this dirty, but effective trick. (I
suppose birds will eat some as well).
The caterpillars of Thaumetopoea pitycampa have the common name of "Procesionaria". In English
this can be translated as "marching in procession"
and this is how they move, one after the other, in long lines,
up and down the trees, along the forest.
The other night in San Antonio, I was sitting
in the car on my way to work, having had to stop for almost
five minutes to let hundreds of young boys and girls cross
the street on a pub-crawl. A bit further on, another group
as big as the first was marching in procession, crossing the
street the other way, to the clubs. I had to stop again and
they all passed by my side. Some shouted something at me and
they were all yelling and screaming among themselves. (The
caterpillars are much quieter).
The funny thing is that if you meet most
of these young ones on their own, they are good people, like
the butterflies. If you see a single one, she is so pretty
that you wouldn't think of leaving her without a boyfriend.
Even a single caterpillar, hairy and irritating if you touch
it, can be a lovely God's creature.
The problem is when they march in procession
leaving only desolation.
By the way, what happened to words like
"Please", "Thank you" or "I'm sorry"?
Aren't they in the Oxford English Dictionary any more?
One thing I have to admit, I find it much
easier now to learn the British language. How do you say "Por
favor" in English? = F
you! And "Lo siento"? = F
All I have to do is to keep saying an "F" every
three or four words, doesn't matter which, and they all say
that I speak fucking good English.
I'm sorry. Please excuse my French. Thank
"Carpobrotus edulis" is a plant
that was brought to the Islands not long ago. It comes originally
from the arid tablelands of Zimbabwe and South Africa. Nowadays
it can be seen in public and private gardens all over the
Island. It grows horizontally, flat, covering the floor, forming
a thick carpet of little green fingers, with single round
flat flowers of very fine petals, that can be from white,
yellow-pink to red and purple. It is a pretty plant that needs
very little to survive. It can resist very long periods of
hot, sunny weather without a drop of rain and the strong seaside
winter winds are not a problem at all. If one of its branches
gets cut and left anywhere on the floor, its fingers contain
so much water it can survive for months until it grows roots
again, producing a new plant. And this is the problem; they
grow out of control. That's what happened in Formentera and
some parts of Ibiza; little by little they have colonised
most of the dunes and sandy areas by the beaches, threatening
the autochthonous Flora ("Phragmites communis", "Cobularia marina", "Medicago marino", "Limonium caprariense" and the pretty iris "Pancratium
maritimum" among others). The situation was so serious
in Formentera that drastic measures had to be adopted. Several
men spent weeks moving around the Island and removing all
the plants from the dunes and the areas where they shouldn't
be. Regardless of the economical cost, the ecological threat
is real and still persists.
Not far from one of these new colonies of
"Capobrotus edulis" there is a big, ugly villa.
It belongs to somebody who came to the Island a few years
ago, one of the lot that have been coming back for the summer
holidays because they love the Island, its People, its Nature
and its Freedom (they say). Year after year, until they find
the white elephant that they were looking for and when they
find it, they shoot it! They buy this land they always wanted,
the top of a mountain or a complete virgin area. (At the very
best price, of course, the land without a building licence
is much cheaper and they are clever lads, which is why they've
been waiting, meeting the "right" friends, all those
Now this is MINE! First thing: build barbed-wire
entanglement all around MY land and keep two pairs of Rottweilers
patrolling outside. Second thing: chop all MY trees down,
devastate all MY forest, import exotic plants (and whatever
comes along with them) and build a tropical garden with the
best quality Irish grass around MY swimming-pool (don't worry
about the water, I can perforate another well, no problem,
the Mayor is a good friend of mine, we think alike, he dines
here often with me, I believe in him).
If it happens by chance that anybody walks
any closer then ten metres to HIS enclosures, he is already
on top of HIS roof shouting: "PRIVATE! PRIVATE!"
But perhaps it is not always the same person
shouting. The villa seams to be completely full for four or
five months of the summer season. "He invites friends
at home"... and moves out to the gardener's hut. (There
is no gardener, it's cheaper by the hour). It is not a bad
business at all.
Even so, whenever they are elsewhere, away
from here, they feel so proud and happy to say, with a big
smile on their face: "I live in Ibiza, I love the Island,
its People, its Nature, its Freedom! "
At least the "Carpobrotus edulis"
flowers can be eaten (they're lovely in salads). "edulis,"
as almost everyone knows, means edible.
The Good News
In the past month, the local political action
seems to have started moving towards what the great majority
of the islanders have been waiting for since the present government
was voted in.
It is the last chance to stop and find a
solution to the tremendous chaos generated by the "Building
Rush" of the last five or six years all over the Island.
Since the exact date that Pesetas will be
changed into Euros has been known, there has been frenzied
activity to spend money that could become valueless.
These are the Pesetas that the Tax-office
doesn't know about, doesn't control, and therefore on which
no tax is paid. It is known as Black Money.
A good part of this money was - and still
is being - used to build and to buy property, especially in
new blocks of flats in the Ibiza district and new urbanisation
all around the Island (even they have to be closed because
there are no customers for nine months or more of the year).
The property that has already been built
in Ibiza Town alone in this time is enough to absorb the natural
increase of the population of the entire Island for two decades
The big problem is that the Island has not
grown at all. There is not enough energy or water for today.
There are not enough parking spaces for more then the 85,000
vehicles already on the Island. Our roads are the most dangerous
in Spain. There is not a plan in action for waste disposal
and nowhere to put it (one of our biggest problems this, which
has been ignored for thirty years). The degeneration of the
environment runs so fast that we'll reach the point of no
return "two years ago". And so on and so on.
At last, the local government has presented
new laws to stop any new building licences. More then seven
hundred new flats for which planning permission has already
been sought this year in Ibiza town alone and ten or twelve
urbanisation's all over the Island will have to wait, at least
for a while.
I think the local government and the Mayor
of Ibiza Town have done the right thing, very late, but better
now then never. Please, keep the same direction with goodwill
and courage. Don't let us down.
José P Ribas