Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Sex Bombus

Sex, for bees, is famously terminal, at least for the male. Rather like the spider that eats its mate, the male bumble bee (Bombus spp) will die after it mates with the queen.

Bombus sex is having your end away, in every sense of the phrase...

The Big Wet

It's been wet. Very wet. We are now in December and there is a slight reprieve from the rain, but the Autumn was the wettest ever, and we had the equivalent of almost six months of rain in one month, October:

The Rain in Spain falls October

The consequence has been a lot of mud especially on the track down to the village, fields that we cannot plough - which will delay our hay crop in 2019 - and a flourishing fungal population.

Torc of the Devil...
This first fungus I cannot identify, but the next is Ramaria aurea, known as Peu de Rata Groc, or Yellow Rat's Foot in Catalan. It's edible, if eaten young (it says here*. I'm not brave enough to try...)

Christmas Coral
 And finally, my favourite because it's so, so bad, Clathrus ruber, Gita de Bruixa (Witches' Net) in Catalan, the Latticed Stinkhorn in English. It looks scary, traps and eats insects, and stinks of dog poo. Yes, dog poo...

Stinks to Heaven (if you are a fly)

*Guia dels Bolets dels Països Catalans, 7th edition, R. Pascual,  Portic, Barcelona, 2007.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Wild Nightlife on the Croft

The camera trap that my daughter bought me has been capturing some interesting fauna.

I set it out near the garden. We have fig trees and I thought that might attract the wild boar. We also have rats, attracted by the chicken food. But the rats have been dissapearing, so I guessed that there was a predator around. The Barn and Tawny owls capture them at night (we hear the whoosh and squeak as they attack the rats in the garden), but there are ground predators too:

My brother is a tiger, really...

Pretty sleek, eh?
Mrs Brock returns

That's from just five nights with the camera trap. The cat is big, but I guess it's a large domestic cat, not a wild cat. The fox is completely fearless: she or he has been out at times when I know the dogs were around too.

It's pretty wild at night at the Croft...

Sunday, 19 August 2018


The fight-back against the Asian Hornet, Vespa velutina, has started.

I built these traps using some stuff from the local household store, and baited them with Catalan white wine, my honey, organic brown sugar and locally-caught fish. Frankly, if the Asian hornets aren't attracted by that menu, and the low food-mile count, I will be amazed...

One way to the winery

The instructions for this type of trap are pretty widely available. The funnel has a 10mm hole, through which hornets and bees can pass, but the exit holes, just above the internal wire base, are just 6mm in diameter. Large enough for a honey bee to escape, but too small for the hornet. The inverted bowl above the trap keeps the rain out (and thus avoids diluting the bait - no-one wants watered-down wine...)

I'll check them in a week to see if they have captured anything useful.

Sunday, 12 August 2018


We are under attack. The dread Asian Hornet, Vespa velutina, has arrived at my hives.

I took a honey harvest a couple of weeks ago, but it was small - way too small for this time of year. I suspected that something might be bothering the bees. And today, when I went up to the hives, the bees were locked down in their hive entrances. 

She is out there, somewhere

And just a few centimetres away, the hovering menace:

I've told the rangers, and the bee association, but I'd welcome any advice or suggestions on how best to deal with this.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Double Bug

Two scenes of, er, bug intimacy this week.

The first is a pair of clegs (horse flies), Tabanidae. I have an admiration-hate relationship with clegs. Admiration for their extraordinary efficiency and accuracy - they can attack a horse's legs - or mine - fast and from a distance, but land with such precision that you feel nothing until the wee bu&&er has bitten a chunk out of you, at which they fly off, again at high speed but this time in a dodging, zigzag flight path that makes them impossible to swat. Hate, because they are a constant summer nuisance for the donkeys.

But the admiration part of the equation increased with this pair who managed to couple on an orange-tree leaf, and then fly off, still coupled in perfect coordination, when my camera got too close.

This is giving me a buzz

Clegs fight the stereotype; it is she that bites the donkeys, while he floats around our garden flowers eating only nectar.

And then there were these two. They were locked in a love scene at the entrance to a mouse burrow, like two sumo wrestlers. These two barely moved when I approached, and were clearly not going anywhere for anyone. 

It's boring but it works

Friday, 6 July 2018

Sticky End

I saw one in the woods a week ago, but there was not enough light to photograph it. This one, however, was easier to picture because - poor wee thing - it had drowned in a cupful of water in the water-feeders for the donkey stable.

Knifed in the back

This is possibly Leptynia hispanica, but it might be Pijnackeria hispanica, in which case I can make a Scottish connection because the latter feeds exclusively on, er, Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius)...