Poppies and White Campion. Sun, 11th June 2023

The wildflower bed is a sea of red poppies; most have come out today as yesterday the scentless mayweed, that largish white daisy-like flower, held sway. Poppy flowers only last a few days, the petals easily detached in the wind. But they will keep coming for the next month of so, leaving behind their pepper pots of seeds.

There are many damsel flies around the pond, probably the common blue. Some are in linear pairs for mating, their sole purpose now. They have spent three years at the bottom of the pond as larvae, where they are voracious predators. In May, quite a few of the larvae crawled out of the water and up the pond iris stems. There, they underwent their final sloughing off of their skin, emerging as adults with wings.

Insects, such as damsel flies, have exo-skeletons. It is a tough skin to which muscles are attached to for movement, and which shapes and supports the body. But exo-skeletons periodically, as the insect grows, must be shed, and a new one grown. The process is called ecdysis. Once out of the old skin, the insect is vulnerable as the new skin has to harden before they can forage and mate.

Last Tuesday, we had a large swarm of bees in our sycamore, about 10 feet high. Quite a sight, thousands of bees in a cluster about the size of a large pineapple. In the centre was a queen bee. There were a few flying around it, but most were in the swarm. It didn’t seem particularly dangerous, being high up. And the bees had no interest in us. They have come from the hives over our back fence.

‘Swarming is a natural process,’ say the British Bee Association. ‘It is the colony reproducing by the old queen leaving with some of the bees. They leave their hive and find somewhere to hang in a cluster until the scout bees decide on their new home.’

Of course, bee keepers don’t want to lose half their bees, which would mean losing half their honey, and so came to collect the bees. All togged up in protective gear, they got them all in a box and took them back to the hive.

The drought has lasted over a month, with this weekend having the hottest days of the year at 30ºC. We are exceedingly low on water which the heat has made worse. We have three metre-cubes (IBCs – Intermediate Bulk Containers), each has a volume of a 1000 litres (about 150 watering cans). Our neighbour, with the bees, topped up one of the IBCs so we have some water. But with watering cans, all we can do is water plants in pots and some of the raised beds. Most of the plants in the ground, we leave and hope they will survive. The grass is going yellow, a key sign of drought.

The good news is that Thames Water is coming this week to fix a water meter, and if the plumber can get get going shortly after, we’ll have water on tap in a week or two, and can give the whole garden a hosing. Cross fingers.

There’s a large wormwood plant by the backstage, about 1.5 metres high. It’s a wildflower, common on waste ground, the leaves are very divided. It was used to flavour absinthe.

The bible, in Revelations, says of it:

And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as if it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters.

And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.’

This happens during Armageddon, when you may have worse troubles than poisoned water, what with the chosen being taken up to heaven in the rapture, and the Anti-Christ doing his worse. I have no advice, as I suspect there will be a run on bottled water.


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