Saturday, 18 May 2019

An hornet's days work...

I saw her yesterday, the first of the year. 

A queen Asian Hornet building her Spring nest (there is a later, Summer nest that is as big as a medicine ball). Inside the front porch of the Croft.

Off with her head

Reginacide is unpleasant but occasionally necessary. Asian Hornets are not very republican - they have between two and four hundred queens in their Summer nests - so killing this one will have almost no effect on their predation of the bees that live at the Croft. 

Like many reginacides, including that of poor Mary Queen of Scots, it's a symbolic act by a weak, frustrated neighbour armed, in this case, with a big clunky stick.

The Beginning


 
This is how it will begin.

Hello, world


A single flower forcing its way through the cracking concrete of an empty building.

The building had been a busy place, full of human life. There is still lots of life - bacteria, moulds, lichens, ants and now, plants. But it is silent life, a truly silent spring. The noise of humanity has gone and the earth can get back to its buzzing, humming and rustling. Peace on earth, at last.

This is the extinction of Extinction Rebellion. The time, possibly not far from now, when humans burn their way through the earth. Gaia reasserts herself and forces a new order on the planet, one without the carbonized remains of humanity. It's an outrageous idea, but one that is getting easier to imagine. A time when our failure to stop the burning releases just enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to tip the balance of a major ecosystem. The Arctic melts and the North Atlantic Current breaks down. Or Bangladesh floods as Southern Europe becomes a desert. It does not take much.

The rich will save themselves from the initial shock by moving away from the burn. But justice will prevail and a democratic virus, or a bloody resource war, will wipe them out too.

And then the flowers will spout through the concrete deserts that we have built, and, over time that is no longer recorded and thus is not time, the natural world will eradicate all of our remains. Just a few nuclear dumps – the rotting hulks of the submarines at Faslane - will continue to glow out the message that once, a slightly intelligent ape lived here. Slightly intelligent, but not clever enough.

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 mainly...in 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

Trap!

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

Attack!

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.