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  • Watching wasps build a nest

    Miranda Hodgson on 28 Jun 2010 at 09:18 AM

    I’ve been watching wasps building a nest. I first noticed them when I saw them buzzing in and out of a hole in the shed by the vegetable garden. Looking inside, I saw the nest being built and reckoned they had already been building it for some days. This is how it looked on the 5th of June. The wasp on the right was busy adding new material, chewed up wood mixed with saliva, and you can see that the mixture is still wet.

    Five days later it had grown, with new layers having been added, and there were more wasps to be seen.


  • The grass snakes are back!

    Miranda Hodgson on 21 Jun 2010 at 11:52 AM

    We came across grass snakes (Natrix natrix) regularly up at the vegetable garden this time last year and have been looking out for them again. We first knew that there were grass snakes about when I found one curled up in a compost bin a couple of years ago and then, last year, we found a discarded skin in one of the big compost heaps. We also saw them lounging in the sunshine on top of the compost, or at the doorways to their nests. Like lords of the manor, they were, spending their time sunbathing whilst we sweated in the garden.


  • An empty pheasant nest and looking at lily beetle larvae

    Miranda Hodgson on 11 Jun 2010 at 11:12 AM

    When I last wrote, the pheasant was still on the nest and we were eagerly awaiting the first sight of the chicks. That weekend, there was a big wedding celebration in the field next to the vegetable garden and we decided to stay away. Typically, when we went to the garden again, only a day later, the nest was empty with no pheasant and no chicks to be seen.

    It’s difficult to say if all the chicks hatched and some of the shells were trampled in the process, or if some were predated but, as there were only a few broken shells left in the nest, it seems clear that most of them got away. A neighbour said she had spotted a pheasant with chicks in a nearby lane, so maybe that was them.

    Back in the ornamental garden and the lily beetles (Lilioceris lilii) are doing their work. Both the adults and the larvae eat the foliage of lily plants, as well as Cardiocrinum and fritillaries, and can chew through the lot in a short time. The bright red adults are easy to spot, though not easy to catch because they drop off the leaf as soon as you touch the plant. I’ve found it easiest to hold a trowel under the leaf and catch them in that. Then I squash them or, depending on how squeamish I feel, put them in the green composting bin and shut the lid.