Coming from the French word terre for “soil,” the word terroir originally described the special characteristics of a region, or piece of land, which gave different varieties of wine, coffee and tea their individuality. (Soil, climate, position, regional traditions….)

It’s all go! Migrant birds are returning from their winter homes and mammals are getting frisky; reptiles are emerging and bugs are flying. There are territories to be claimed and defended, mates to attract, nests to build, setts to clean, burrows to renovate, young to feed. And the backdrop to this frenetic activity is a landscape transformed into countless shades of green.

At this time of year, we read a lot about Pine Processionary Caterpillars, hairy and dangerous little fellows who can cause severe irritation and allergic reactions in both human and animals who touch them or who come across their hairs, which can also blow in the wind.

At this time of year the P-O transforms into a kaleidoscope of wildflowers. Lesley McLaren takes us through a few of the more common ones to be found in the verges, hedgerows and rocky slopes of the Albères and Vallespir.

As the weather warms up, honey bees stir and the colony starts to grow. Eventually it can get so overcrowded that a second queen is created. And this triggers the original queen’s departure, with 20,000 or so followers, in search of a new home. They fly in a protective bunch around her. But she’s not a strong flier and has to make regular stops – usually in a tree – to get her breath back. Again, the workers will follow and gradually form a tightly packed, hanging mass around her (better described in French as, une barbe). Meanwhile scouts continue to search for suitable permanent premises.

These are in fact caterpillar nests, constructed by the pine processionary caterpillar (chenille processionnaire) larva, who live in large ‘tents’ and march out at night in single file (hence the name) to feed on the pine needles.

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