Wednesday 9 June 2010

Buzz, buzz, buzz went the bee

Wasps are a pain in summer aren't they?

As far as I know they have no worthwhile function other than to try and steal your jam and lemonade whilst having a picnic. When I was younger and crueler, and spending my summer working in the Bavarian Alps, we used to pour a few drops of beer on to the table whilst we ate our lunch and wait for the hornet-sized wasps to come and settle. We'd quickly turn our beer glasses over them, like a glass cage, and then throw a lighted cigarette in. They never lasted long, either burning themselves on the lit fag, or suffocating. With thirty years of hindsight I can see that this was cruel, nasty and sadistic. So I'd like to apologise to the Wasp God, and claim folly of youth.

Since then I've seen a friend who had a wasps nest on the side of his house decide that a good hit with a baseball bat was an excellent way to let them know they weren't welcome - they begged to disagree. And in Buckhurst Hill we had one in the hedge, so that every time I opened the car door, the wasps came out to see who was home. I asked them to leave nicely by spraying their nest with something I bought at Robert Dyas. They never spoke to me again.

Bees on the other hand are brilliant. Beautiful in a gawky kind of way, even they don't know how they fly, I'm told. The decline of the great honey bee has been much documented in recent years, so they are very precious creatures indeed.

On the side of the garage we have a bird box which has remained empty this year. We've been told that in 2010 this is a very common phenomenon. I'm hoping it's just that pesky Icelandic volcano which has kept the birds grounded in their summer habitats, but I'm affeared it may be worse.

Claiming squatters rights, we discovered this weekend, was a troupe of bees. They were big black and yellow and very buzzy when I went close. As I'm not one for bravado, we thought it best just to get the professionals in. The council suggested some beekeepers who came round in a jiffy...only marginally disappointed to find that these are Bumble Bees so don't produce honey...but good for pollinating. So as the bees dozed, the bird/bee box was sealed and taken away in the back of their car. They've promised to invite us round for a hog roast later in the year....and indeed sell us back the bird box. So we'll be able to see how our bees are fairing.

At the other end of the garden, we have a family of foxes. Mum and three has been brave enough to peer through the windows in the conservatory. I'd like to say how sweet and lovely they are, but foxes are getting very bad press this week, so I'll merely mention their existence in passing.