There is something about wasp related news that really appeals to me. That said, I have no qualms about murdering the wee beasties when the build a nest in my own garden.
A new study into how the many species of stinging wasps contribute both to the ecosystem and human society, however, suggests that a more live and let live attitude might be in order.
“Wasps are one of those insects we love to hate – and yet bees, which also sting, are prized for pollinating our crops and making honey,” the study’s lead author, Professor Seirian Sumner of UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, told Eurekalert.
“In a previous study, we found that the hatred of wasps is largely due to widespread ignorance about the role of wasps in ecosystems, and how they can be beneficial to humans.”
Not only do they pollinate 960 species of plant — 164 of which depend on the wasp entirely — they also keep crops free from pests in their role as apex predator. The pest control aspect is not new, though, with Brazil farmers using live wasps for pest control as far back as 2013.
According to Professor Sumner:
Wasps are understudied relative to other insects like bees, so we are only now starting to properly understand the value and importance of their ecosystem services. Here, we have reviewed the best evidence there is, and found that wasps could be just as valuable as other beloved insects like bees, if only we gave them more of a chance.
I’m all for giving wasps more of a chance. Especially if they nest in someone else’s garden.
Yesterday evening, Eve informed me that there was a dead pigeon in the chicken run. I had no intention of trying to deal with a bird corpse while it was both dark and raining, but I did promise to get rid of it this morning.
This morning came and went and, shortly after lunch, I went out to deal with the dead pigeon.
It had gone.
So now the question arises as to who might have been sneaking into our garden on Saturday morning to help themselves to a Columbidae corpse.
I have my suspicions.
Flemish towns rethink autumn leaf clean up
A growing number of Flemish municipalities have stopped raking up fallen tree leaves as they awaken to the climate and environmental benefits of letting the autumnal shedding pile up.
This follows a campaign launched by a Bruges-based permaculture expert and sustainable landscaping consultant that touts the varied benefits of dry leaves, not only as soil fertilisers but also for their wider impact on the local environment and on the climate.
“Autumn leaves that are left in place act as an extra-good absorption layer for water. They ensure that the soil retains water longer and releases it more slowly.”
Other environmental agencies, such as the US National Wildlife Foundation or the VVOG Flemish association of public greenery also echo De Jaeghe’s arguments that leaves are great fertilisers as well as an important element for local wildlife and biodiversity.
This is my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
It was about a month ago that I mentioned that my chilli plants had started flowering again. Now, the prospect of a second harvest is looking more promising than ever.
The peppers still need to ripen, but they’re looking remarkably tempting already.
This almost makes up for the fact that the pumpkins are really struggling this year.
When Chili, (the cat) died last year, the boys wanted to bury the cat and to plant a chili plant to mark the spot.
With the Covid-19 lockdown in full swing this spring, getting to a garden centre became rather problematic. We did, however, manage to eventually acquire a couple of plants, albeit a little later than I would have liked. The plants did pretty well though, providing us with a reasonably decent harvest of mild and spicy peppers.
They were rather tasty, too, and ended up in pretty much everything.
It turns out though that we’re not yet done with them. Over the weekend, I noticed that the plants are flowering again.
I know I recently whined a bit about the prospect of yet another heatwave, but if the autumn stays mild enough for another batch of chillies to survive, I shall stop complaining immediately.
We also held on to quite a lot of seeds and, next year, I shall see if I can germinate them. Here’s hoping for an endless supply of the glorious fruit.
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned, but we planted a pear tree several years ago. It looks like we are finally going to see a decent harvest this year.
We also have an apple tree, which has produced so many apples this year that the poor thing is struggling to stand up. The tree has been braced and the apples have already been harvested — they weren’t quite ripe but they were good for cooking.
I like pie.
While in the garden recently, I found this guy on my corn. My limited insect identification skills are enough to know that it’s a grasshopper (watch me get corrected in the comments now 😉 ), but I have no idea as to what type.
More importantly, is it edible?
On a side note, attempting to identify bugs is something that I’m finding quite interesting even though I’m rubbish at it. If anyone can point to any relevant resources, it would be much appreciated.
I nearly forgot to mention yesterday that, as well as the berries and vegetables in the garden, William took it upon himself to attempt to grow an orange tree.
I helped him a bit with getting the seed to germinate and with potting it, but once it was warm enough for the plant to go outside, it has been entirely William’s responsibility.
It’s still alive.
I am under instructions to keep it an eye on it for the next week. Although most of the youth group activities the boys normally attend have been cancelled due to the corona virus lockdown, the restrictions were eased soon enough for them to attend the annual summer camp.
It’s a bit different to usual, of course, as the kids have to remain in contact bubbles so they are less able to freely mingle than usual. Also, the Sunday barbecue is cancelled, for obvious reasons.
As ever, the older kids make their own way to the site on Thursday and the following Sunday is when the younger groups are dropped off by parents. Normally this is quite a big event, with a barbecue, drinks and a chance to catch up with how things are going so far.
This year, there’s no barbecue, no mingling and no catching up with anyone. We had to turn up, drop the kids off and leave.
On the other hand, this did mean that Eve and I were able to hop on our bikes and go out for mussels.
Next time, though, I will check the tires are properly inflated before we set off.
When I go walking I pass a lot of wild blackberries. Clearly it’s the climate for them in this area — even the carefully cultivated berries in my own garden are thriving.
We also have vegetables, and these have not done as well as in previous years. A large part of the problem was that the garden centres were still closed when we were getting ready to plant and consequently I ended up attempting to germinate whatever seeds we had to hand.
Many germinated, some didn’t. Of the seeds that germinated, a fair few didn’t survive being transplanted into the garden itself.
Still, we will have plenty of courgettes this year and the one pumpkin plant that has survived has just sprouted a flower — hopefully there will be more to come. We also have a fair bit of sweetcorn growing. No cobs yet, of course, but the plants themselves are growing very strongly indeed.
We also have weeds. Far too many weeds. I really do need to start getting these under control otherwise nothing is going to survive until autumn.
Wish me luck.
This is a bit of an addendum to yesterday’s post because, while the boys were busy harvesting strawberries, I realised that my long-suffering raspberry bush has finally started producing fruit.
It’s taken it’s time but the fruit was well worth the wait.
Looking forward a bit, I’m both optimistic and a little nervous about my blackberries.
I can see a lot of berries starting to ripen, as was the case last year. Then we went on holiday and a heat wave swept across the country so that, by the time ewe returned home, everything was dehydrated and the berries had dried on the vine (so to speak).
This year we have no holiday plans. We will have to keep watching the bushes.