12 June 2008

busy bees ... and other insects

Bees have been hovering around the gardens and my consciousness for the last couple of weeks.

It may just be the time of year, but I think it started with those Brakspear beer bottle tops which immediately reminded me of how as children we made badges from them or used them to customise home made carts.

And there was also Nell Heaton’s Bee Wine to make in the odd days of May which I didn’t have time to mention. “Her “bees” were blocks of yeast which you put in a crock with water and fed daily with sugar so that it fermented into a kind of mead. I would so like to make mead. Then there were the bee catchers and the plans for a bee house. John bought me a bee house as a Christmas present a few years ago. They are very simple constructions, essentially a cylinder with tubes inside. Red Mason bees come and lay eggs in the tubes, making separate cells for each egg, separated off with mud walls. When the egg hatches, the bee makes its way to the next cell, and so on, until it flies free. It really gives you a buzz (sorry) when you discover the blocked off tubes and then, the following spring, notice that the bees have hatched. Alas, my Bee House has gone missing, so we made a small one using the thin ends of bamboo and an old tin. I’m rather pleased with it.

Now call me odd if you wish, but I think insects are cool (except for flies –fruit flies I can tolerate, after that I draw the line). If you’ve ever seen a stag beetle – and we used to get them up at Manor Gardens - you’ll know what I mean. And this week a little giveaway booklet on British moths in the newspaper totally captivated me. I read it on the tube to work and had to control my inner squeals of awe and delight. The colours, the patterns, the names – some poetic, some curiously prosaic - Cinnabar, Heart and Dart, Angle Shades, Chimney Sweeper, Spindle, Ermine, Plume, Swallow Prominent, Dark Bordered Beauty. There’s even a Puss Moth for cat lovers. Just think of the fun you could have naming one of your own. Or how lovely they would look if they were cardigans. Even if you are not the curious kind, do look here to experience the glory of black and white in the moth world.

But there’s always at least one bad guy, isn’t there. We have a plague of clothes moths this summer. My eye to hand co-ordination is being tested to the limits as I reach out to snatch them as they innocently (not) fly past. They are hiding in the dusty corners of my cupboards, no doubt creating havoc in my precious woollens and silks. I am resorting to eccentric means. I nearly died of fright when I made a rare visit to the freezer last week. This is Michael the Panda (yes, I know, but I was a child when I named him). I thought he was attracting the moths, now I suspect he is innocent and might return from his frozen gulag.

If I have to be reincarnated as a moth for my sins, please, oh, please, let me come back as a Garden Tiger and not a Dingy Shears.

1 comment:

j said...

Poor Michael the Panda. So forlorn.

The chimney sweeper moth is beautiful.

I'd like to make mead, too. I love the old cookery books.