Nature and Conservation

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Wildlife Ways August 2018


hedgehog

  As we hurtle towards autumn with noticeably lower temperatures and the sun setting earlier each evening, the recent heavy rainfall has begun to quench the thirsty soil and the lawn is starting to regain its vivid green colour. Sadly, sat here in my jumper, I’m already missing the hot sunshine – if there is such a thing as a previous life, I was definitely a lizard, basking in warm sunshine to draw in energy.  

A sure sign that the summer is drawing to a close is the arrival of the wasps.  Similar to honey bees, they live in colonies with up to 10,000 workers, they chew wood to create their intricate paper nests. The queen lays eggs which hatch into sterile female workers, responsible for nest building collecting insects to feed the other larvae.  As the summer progresses some of the larvae hatch into fertile males or drones and some become fertile females that will be next year’s queens.  These fertile wasps then swarm out of the colony to mate.  As temperatures drop the males die off along with the female workers leaving only the queens to hibernate until the spring when the whole cycle begins again.

The very hot dry summer seems to have provided perfect conditions for wasps this year with high numbers reported across the country. This year we have had to very gingerly harvest our modest crop of deliciously sweet plums in a bid to avoid the numerous stinging insects which appear to be covering the entire tree – surprisingly they are not on the fruit but the leaves.  Having done a little research I discovered that some aphids leave a sugary secretion on the leaves which attracts the wasps.  

It is hard to champion these amazing insect architects as so many people are fearful of the potentially painful sting, but they are, in fact, extremely useful pollinators and, according to a recent report ‘UK wasps eat 14 million kilograms of insect prey, such as caterpillars and greenfly, which might otherwise infest our crops and gardens’.  Unfortunately, at this time of year as they are feasting on fermenting fruit, the wasps can, not unlike drunk people, become more aggressive and more likely to sting us.

As things quieten down in the garden, the migratory birds are heading south again for the winter, our swifts are long gone, and the swallows and house martins will soon be following.  We have had a few gold finches back on the nyger seed and the blue tits are back having gone off to nest elsewhere.  I am still hearing the hedgehog on the gravel under my bedroom window as it makes its midnight forays into the garden.  I will soon have to replace the hedgehog home under some vegetation in the hope that it will offer a safe place for hibernation.

As the breeding season comes to a close, we will start to tidy up our rather scruffy hedge and begin to think about scrubbing out the birdfeeders and stocking up on bird food for the winter. As summer’s flowers start to die off and we begin to tidy up the garden a little, now is the time to think about creating wood stacks and as autumn progresses, leave piles for wildlife.  I’m certainly looking forward to the beautiful colours of autumn and hope you are too.


Gail

Please feel free to ask questions, send me your wildlife news or offer suggestions of what you would like me to include in future -113 Ermine Street or gailtalton@btinternet.com and thank you for all of the emails you have sent so far.