a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


Walk with me in the woods

Yesterday was cooler and cloudy in the morning but still inviting enough for a walk in the nearby woods.  As a bonus the clouds parted in the afternoon and the sun was warm.  There is always more activity along the way if it is sunny and the photographs seem more full of life.

We saw plenty of life.

The wild flowers are in abundance now.  The wild violets are still going strong but must surely be finishing soon.

New flowers are coming up every day and line the roadside.

Not even the dandelions can leave you untouched as they are the centre of attraction for bees and chafers.

The fresh green of new plants and flowers is covering the still open floor of the woods.

Inside the woods the flowers bloom in the sunny clearings that have not yet been shadowed by the trees which are only starting to open their leaves.

Th wild anemones take advantage of their days in the sunshine before the trees cover them with shade.  But today I notice a special patch with colours I have never seen before.  The wild anemones are usually completely white single flowers but this patch has delicately shaded flowers of pale violet, blue, pink and even some double flowers.

Every walk reveals a new discovery.

The butterflies cross our path.

The bumble bees are delirious with the abundance of Pulmonaria to provide them with nectar.

Sometimes the butterflies take a break on the ground.

I even caught this bumble dozing in the sun on a dry leaf.

So many of the plants are new to me.

This is White-asphodel, Asphodelus-albus.

It is such a majestic plant I find it hard to imagine it growing wild, I am more used to finding daisies and buttercups.  I would love to learn more about the wild flowers in my area.

Some are instantly recognisable like this wild strawberry but others are not.

Each walk brings a new discovery something we have never seen before, like these two bees mating in the Asphodel.  Taking time to watch and discover.  There is so much to discover.


Weeding – tricked again

Weeding is not my favourite tasks but it can have its moments.  It can be exciting as long as you have a low stimulation threshold. I find the length of time spent weeding is directly proportional to the size of stimulation required to trigger an interest in a different direction.  In other words, I find myself easily distracted by a newly germinating plant (weed?), a bee, the smell of coffee brewing in the distance but yesterday it was different.

It was exciting.

While clearing a border in the front garden a bright blue creature appeared.

I had never seen anything like it before so I rushed to get my camera, sure that it would have disappeared when I returned.  It was still there.  Definitely more interesting than weeding!

I have very little knowledge about insects but I felt I would have to do my best to record and identify it.

It could be a rare endangered species.

So I set about my self-appointed task of documenting its progress across the front of the house.  This required me lying in strange positions on the grass but luckily I live in a very quiet neighbourhood and I do not think anyone saw me, or else they have not liked to mention it.

I reckoned I had taken enough photographs to identify it or post it on a web site and plead for  an identification.

I managed to identify it myself.  It is not an endangered species and I found out about some of its rather nasty habits.  It is Meloe violaceus.

The females can lay up to 4,000 eggs in a hole in the ground, usually in April and May, and may lay more than one batch of eggs.  What hatches out of these eggs are called triungulins and these are capable of producing a pheromone which mimics the sex attractant of a bee.  They climb up flowers such as dandelions and wait for a passing bee.  The confused male bee will attempt to mate with the triungulins which promptly hitch a ride on the bee’s abdomen and are subsequently passed onto a female bee.  The triungulin now gains access to the bee’s nest by hanging on to the female bee. They then use a similar strategy as the cuckoo.  They enter a nest cell and consume the bee’s egg and mature into a larva using the honey stored inside the nest cell.  The larva can pass the winter in the comfort of the bees nest to appear in its adult form in the spring.

I’ve been fooled again (see my blog “I love thee, I love thee not”).  I try to attract the bees to my garden but I am just finding out what they are up against, it is not just about finding food.  Meloe violaceus parasitizes solitary bees in particular, that means my beloved bumble bees.

Maybe I should have just stood on it and forgotten about the camera.