The good and bad in November


We were two weeks in the U.K. and returned home to sunshine to find all was well with the garden.


The broad beans had popped through while we were away.


The courgettes had, not unexpectedly, finished but had left us three courgettes which went into some soup.


The brussel sprouts are great.  You either love them or hate them and I love them.


The medlar are still hard and their leaves look better from a distance providing a splash of yellow.


I was pleased that the cotoneaster were full of berries.  After such a dry summer I thought the birds might be in short supply of food for the winter but it has not been the case.


Our first loquat or Eriobotrya japonica flowers are progressing happily.


The “Althea” which our friend Michel has given us is still flowering.  It is not a Hibiscus syriacus as those have larger flowers and have long since formed fruit and succumbed to the autumn.  The honey bees know it is not, as they are attracted to its flowers.  Perhaps it is a variety of Lavatera.  It is a much finer shrub with softer and more delicate leaves than the Lavatera I have.


For me the star of the back garden just now is the Elaeagnus.  The wonderful perfume can be smelt metres away (I must check exactly how far) even when temperatures are as low as ten degrees centigrade.  I admit the flowers are far from stunning but it is all worth it for that delicious perfume.  In addition, the flowers provide nectar for the over wintering queen bumble bees.


Not far away in the grass is the basket fungus Clathrus ruber with a diferent odour.  I am fascinated by its complex globe structure but you would not want to stay too close too long.  The rotting smell, thankfully, does not carry too far so I am quite happy when it pops up in the autumn.


Close beside it another fruiting body has pushed out of the soil.  This “egg” shape will eventually split and I will be treated to another red basket display.


The birds in the front garden have started feasting on the first ripe Persimmon.  We have since removed the ripest fruit to finish ripening in the house but we have left the birds their share too.  The greener ones will continue ripening slowly on the tree and we will collect these later.


This foray looked like a family affair with Mr. and Mrs. blackbird although I thought male blackbirds had much yellower beaks than this male.


Our pleasure at returning home received a shock when we visited the bees.  The Asian hornets that had seemed fewer this year had profited from our absence and targeted the bees.  We saw hornets exiting from “Iris” which we fear lost.  We immediately put on a muzzle on the front of Poppy to see if it would protect her.  We chose her as the front of her hive is flat and so easier to fix the muzzle.  We have not decided whether this is helping or not.


Despite rain, which we thought would protect them, we found eight hornets had entered the muzzle in front of Iris.  There were not eight dead bees in the trap so perhaps they immediately took fright.  Once they realise they are trapped, the hornets lose their hunting instinct and will seek an exit until they die exhausted.

I phoned a friend to see how she was getting on and discovered she had experienced a surge in the hornet attack in the past two weeks (just when we were in the U.K.!).  She fears she has lost at least two of her four hives.

Sad news to end on.


38 thoughts on “The good and bad in November

  1. So sad about the bees. Our persimmons are ripening fast, I found them quite an acquired taste when we first moved here but now I simply adore them and really look forward to them each year, it’s always good to have something to look forward to in November when the rest of the garden goes quiet after the glut of the summer!


    1. I have always loved persimmons and we planted the tree specially for the fruit. We have since discovered that they ripen indoors well and last year I froze some ripe ones whole and found that they defrost well to be eaten as a dessert. I like them with plain yogurt. Amelia


    1. We don’t really know enough about how they behave. This November has been really mild but something seems different this year. I just hope the climate in the U.K. will make it difficult for the hornets. Late springs and cold spells might keep them in check in addition to the general vigilance of people. I can’t see them getting established in your part of Wales. Amelia


  2. Those poor bees. Every time I read about all that bees (and their keepers) have to put up with in Europe, makes me thank my lucky stars that I live in Australia.

    Is there a reason you don’t leave the wasp muzzle on all summer (year) long?


    1. I was for putting them on before we left. They upset the bees a lot when you put them on. The mesh is 6mm x 6mm and the bees struggle to get through and can damage their wings. They struggle to remove dead bees and debris through the mesh. The way I looked at it was if you are very ill sometimes the medicine is nearly as bad as the illness. We have not totally decided if the muzzles are helping or not, but what is the alternative? Amelia


  3. Janine

    Greetings Both, Sad news indeed for your bee hive. Hopefully the muzzle will deter the wasps until the cold weather kills them this year.
    We are down to one hive now and spending a lot of time on guard duty against wasps. I have not seen the muzzle used here south of Vancouver BC .

    Wish I could grow persimmons!

    Regards and all the best.


  4. So sorry to hear you’ve lost a hive to the Asian Hornets. I think our greatest hope with them is their tiny genetic pool. Once the problem is cracked it’s curtains for all of them. Have you heard that a native conopid fly has started to parasitise them? That’s good news too. I do wish people would report nests and get them destroyed, but usually they are unwilling or unable to afford it. I think taxpayers money should cover it, to encourage people to report them.

    I think your blackbird might be a juvenile male who has not yet acquired his yellow beak.


    1. Thanks for the blackbird.
      I think something different has happened this year. The summer was not so bad and now it has got worse. Do you think that this year’s queens have started to set up nests and have larvae to feed? Thinking that there would be no winter loss between the broods would explain the increase. It is so mild for November.
      I did not know about the conopid fly. It was only a small study that found that the genetic pool was limited. Whatever limited pool they have has allowed them to expand so successfully. I agree that government action is needed for the nests. Amelia


  5. I’m so sorry to hear about the hornets; I’ve seen one or two here but not many; my husband told me the other day that he was thinking of keeping bees when he retires – I’m not so keen as I don’t actually like honey, I think I’ll tell him to follow your blog, they he can read about the difficulties. My Elaeagnus is the best thing in my garden at the moment too.


    1. The bees would like your Elaeagnus! The problem with hornets is that you might not really see them until you started keeping bees. The best think for your husband is to find out more from a local society. It could be that the hornets have not reached you yet. Remember, the invasion started in the Bordeaux area. These are not the indigenous European hornets that I am talking about but an invasive foreign species. The bees are a lot of work but we have enjoyed it – so far. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

    1. They have arrived in the U.K. this year but they destroyed the nest. They used heat seeking equipment to find the nest hidden in the trees. We need some initiatives like that led by the French government. Amelia


      1. Yes, you are right.
        My husband was thinking of this kind of device ( drone ?) but it seems nobody in France is doing anything or looking for a solution. I should tell our beekeeper association !


        1. The drones are different and can only be employed to destroy the nest once it is found. That is where the problem lies. The nest has to be destroyed quickly. The heat seeking equipment can “see” the warmth coming from the nest hidden in the leaves and tree branches which are cooler. It then must be destroyed. The government would need to send teams to target areas.


  6. How wonderful to have your own persimmons. I’ ve never seen bracket fungus before. Weird but beautiful. Sorry to hear about the Asian hornet attacks. I haven’ t seen them here yet. Having been chased and stung by a European hornet I hope they don’ t get here. The native ones are bad enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Persimmons are a great fruit as you can enjoy them at this time of year. The tree does not seem to be susceptible to disease and so is very trouble free. Added to the fact that when I froze the ripe ones whole last year I found that they retained their flavour when defrosted. Amelia


  7. In this country hornets are protected… if they are aiming at your beehives can you make the entrance hole just 1-2 bee size big. The bees will rapidly adjust and manage alright and this little hole will be easier to defend from the inside. I use a kitchen sponge the kind for scrubbing pans but I tear the green part off, that is small and flexible and can be maneuvered in with your hive tool. Good luck, lovely blog again.


    1. European hornets are not a problem here. There are special entrances that we put in place that prevent European hornets from entering the hive. Asian hornets are smaller but more aggressive. They have a totally different habit from European hornets. These are an invasive species that arrived in the Bordeaux area about 10 years ago and are slowly invading all areas of France. Today we have put muzzles on four hives and just closed the fifth as we cannot get the muzzle to fit it. Amelia


    1. The worse part about the bees is we do not know what to do. I think I should have really said that I found the basket fungus after trekking 15 miles in heavy terrain instead of admitting it pops up every year in the back garden. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My condolences on the hornet losses. We lost a hive to swarming this year, but otherwise the hives are doing well. There were yellow jackets (wasps) in the abandoned hive, but I couldn’t tell if they were involved in driving the bees away, or whether it was just opportunistic robbing. I like the idea of a muzzle. If we experience raiders, we’ll consider it.


  9. Looks like your garden is thriving along with all of its visitors. Too bad that includes the hornets. That cage fungus is fascinating. I’d love to find that species on one of my hikes, or even in my garden!


    1. It seems a bit of a cheat finding it when it comes up in more or less the same place in the garden each year but I suppose it is much the same as when you have wild flowers popping up in the garden. We have had quite a lot of rain now and it is good to be able to get on with the planting and moving I wanted to do. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not aware of any funding from them. The “pompiers” used to come willingly and destroy any hornet nests as they can be a danger to the public. Now they are not allowed to (despite having the necessary equipment) as there are private companies that will provide this service. The charge would be £200-£300 (converting freely) if the nest was very high which is normal. So strangely people do not feel inclined to call companies to remove the nests they see. Amelia


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