Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ants milking aphids on my climbing rose

I took this photograph way back in July.  The rose is a climbing rose called Compassion.  It has big fragrant pink flowers.  Just as it was coming into bud I noticed it was covered with aphids guarded by ants.  I didn't want to spray it with anything as I like ants - I didn't have anything to spray it with anyway -  but I love the rose.  Anyway I waited to see what would happen.  And all was well.  The ants fed, the aphids thrived, and the rose bloomed, and is still blooming today, though no aphids or ants to be seen.  The aphids will probably all have died now and will overwinter as eggs, and the ants will be underground; just emerging when the sun hits the wall.

Aphids are bad news indoors, in the greenhouse and on seedling and small plants, but bigger plants outside just seem to take these things in their stride.  Also to thrive in my cold, wind blown garden plants have to be tough anyway. I feed and water them for a year, but after that they are on their own apart from a bit of pruning and mulching when I have the time.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Eristalis horticola - hoverfly

Finally got this hoverfly identified as Eristalis horticola.  I saw masses of them this summer.  It's larva is like the rat tailed maggot.  We have been having stormy but warm weather, and finally the wind has dropped and the sun has come out, so I'm off to the garden to plant a Magnolia.  I've had no luck with magnolias before, so I hope this time I will get it right.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Speckled wood, Pararge aegeria

Just added this photograph of a Speckeld wood that I found lying, sunnings itslef on a path in the wood one morning.  I tried to take a photograph, but the movement of the leaves prevented it, so I took it home, photographed it and put it back later.

For the past few days the weather has been really mild, and yesterday I saw 2 Bombus terrestris queens foraging off my lavender and viper's bugloss.  These were the first terrestris I'd seen for ages, in fact the only bumblebees I've had in the garden for the past few weeks are pascuorum.

My plants are looking pretty tatty, and i have started cutting back some of the lavender, but I always leave cutting back until there are no flowers at all, so no nectar.  I'm glad I did this year as it has really helped the pascuorum, who have had the nectar practically to themselves - although I expect the night-flying moths get their share.

The weather has turned cold and rainy today, and nothing is foraging from the garden flowers, though I did see a few hoverflies early this morning in the woods before the rain hit.  Lots of red squirrels in the woods.  This appears to have been a bumper year for them.

My log fire was lit, and my desk lamp was switched on at 3:30 this afternoon - it's like winter.

Thursday, 13 October 2011


This is Chrysotoxum arcuatum - quite a mouthful for a little hoverfly, and it doesn't have a common name because I checked.  Here it is sitting in one of my orange poppies sunning itself.  I get a lot of insects doing that as the temperature inside these bowl-shaped flowers is higher than outside.  So the heat saves them energy and helps them digest their food.

I don't know much about this pretty little fly except it is common in Scotland especially around woodlands, and it is uncommon elsewhere.

This year I have had a huge number of hoverflies in the garden and the greenhouse, and they are very welcome.  I don't know if there has been an increase everywhere else this year, or if it is because I have left a few dill plants to self seed.  I know the hoverflies just love dill when it is in flower, so I deliberately pulled out only those I didn't want, or were in the way of something else.  I even left a few in the greenhouse, and they grew huge!  This year I haven't been bothered with greenfly until a few weeks ago - so I wonder if it is the dill attracting hoverflies.  Anyway I will do the same next year as I hate the mess of greenfly honeydew covered in black fungus.

Just started Harry Potter's The order of the phoenix.  Am really enjoying Somerset Maugham's The magician, but got a bit fed up of Dawn French's Dear Fatty.  Perhaps I should have read it over a longer time - just a few pages a day.  I didn't like the format.  I've just got Jan Beccaloni's Arachnids, but I won't start it until I've finished the old, battered copy of Bristowe's The world of spiders - of which I've read just a few chapters, good so far though.

The leaves are piling up in the garden.  I've bagged some, but have yet to discover how to remove leaves from gravel.  Do you wait until they blow away somewhere they are easy to gather?  I'm using last year and the year before's leaves as a mulch round some plants during the winter.  As a mulch they look better than grass clippings, but are less nutritious.

Now I will take to the chesterfield with a glass of Pomerol and Somerset Maugham before rousing myself to watch Jim Al-kalili at 9.  It's a hard life!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Slug eggs

Found loads of these slug eggs whilst forking my compost from one bin to the other.
I put them into the new bin.  They looked just like seed pearls, they really are the most beautiful and delicate looking things.  Sometimes, when there are masses of them, I put some on a plant saucer and lay them out for the birds, but I always feel guilty doing this.

I don't mind slugs in the compost bins, after all they are breaking down the stuff I put in there, but I do hate it when they hoover up my seedlings.

Still reading Dawn French.  I'm not sure I like the format the biog. takes - a series of letters to people - at times I find it a little contrived, but it does allow her to speak as different aspects of herself, and even as different characters.  Her letters to Madonna are funny, but I'm not sure what they are doing in her biog. as they read like they are written by a character from one of her progs.

Just started the Magician by Somerset Maugham.  I'd started this book years ago, but lost it while travelling.  Good old Kindle, now I can finally read it.  I'd forgotten all about it, but was browsing through Feedbooks and found it.

Blustery cold wind in the garden today, but beautiful blue skies, so too hot in the greenhouse with my fleece on.  Picked some more sweet peas.  Why isn't there a scent called sweet pea, I cannot think of a nicer fragrance.  For the past few months I've had a small vase of them on my desk.

Today my study is being kept nice and warm by the sun, but I will probably have to like the woodburner when the sun goes down.  I'll be burning some of my next door neighbours' copper beech.  Beech gives out a really good heat, but I have read that ash is the best.  And for kindling I am still burning my way through my other neighbour's laths after the work they had done on their house last year.  The workmen were delighted to put the wood over my wall as it saved them hoisting it into the skip and getting it carted off.  I'm the great recycler!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Cream spot ladybird

Finally added this little cream spot photograph to the ladybird page.
I photographed it way back in April.  It was on a birch tree in the garden, but had been blown off, so I took the pic and put it back on.  Today the leaves from that tree are blowing everywhere - it is a very blustery day.  The Bombus pascuorum are still hanging on though - they are the only species of bumblebee left in the garden, but there are still plenty of flowers for them to forage on.

Been given my husband's old HTC phone.  It is lovely and does lots of things, but it is a bother to carry around.  My old tiny Nokia fitted quite happily into the pocket of my jeans, but this one doesn't, or rather it  does, but the touch screen keeps getting touched (squashed more likely) by my jeans, and eventually I get a beeping phone telling me it has little or no battery power left.  I have a little pocket thingy that fits on my belt loop, but I don't wear a belt with all of my jeans, and it look silly when I have a long jumper on, so what to do?  I don't carry a bag when I go out dog walking, or when I'm in the garden, but I do need my phone for the odd occasion that somebody remembers I exist.  Must I get extra baggy jeans?  It is getting colder now, so I wear jackets when I go out, so it is not too much of a prob. but what'll I do for next summer?

There must have been at least 4 or 5 days this year when I went to the woods with a short sleeved t-shirt, jeans and non-waterproof shoes - this is called summer up in Scotland - we don't get it every year, and it comes as quite a shock when it happens.  My dog has to go into the burn and lie down to cool off when it's hot, actually she has to go into the burn on most days.  I've seen her on a day of icy blizzards jump into the burn with icy water swirling around her at belly height, and you can tell she is just loving it - it's the heat that gets to her.

Just started Dawn French's Dear Fatty good so far, and expect it will be all the way through.  Also got, at great expense, the New Naturalist's the world of Spiders by Bristowe, oh they don't make them like him any more.  I could live, study and write for 100 years and never come close to these guys.  Any time somebody complements me on the web site or my knowledge of creepy crawlies, I am aware of just how little I really know compared to them.  Oh, well Flossie says it is time to explore the woods for an hour or two to make sure everything is as it should be.