The sun was out, the bees were out and I was out trying camera settings having failed spectacularly to come to terms with a new(ish) SLR. The problem remains me, not it, but I sense that the hatred is mutual. Anyway, a few bee shots worked well enough to use… This is my favourite bee, tiny and pale, far smaller than the sturdy yellow and black bumbles jostling for the space on the hyssop and lavender. I like the way their packed saddlebags matched their  colouring. There are probably two or even three different species of bee here for all I know, but it’s hot and I can’t be bumbled to look it up…

This is the first year I have taken on board the number of mites the bees carry. #1 has a fine one under the wing; and I saw one bumble with a smart necklace of mites. I realise they are mostly non-parasitic (apparently), and maybe it is even a sign of good bee health…

Bees in August, Dorset Bees in August, DorsetBees in August, DorsetBees in August, Dorset Bees in August, Dorset Bees in August, DorsetBees in August, Dorset Bees in August, Dorset


Allium Heads, DorsetAllium Heads, DorsetAllium Heads, DorsetAllium Heads, DorsetAllium Heads, DorsetAllium Heads, Dorset


“Assorted Aquilegia” is probably what it said on the packet. But it came from a wholesome source not unconnected with Perch Hill, and the results of the experiment have been gratifyingly immediate and colourful this year. New soil in the beds (after a lengthy lay-off from any serious attempt at cultivation) may have something to do with it as well. Here are some of the flowers snapped on an iPhone this weekend. 

IMG_0455 IMG_0454 IMG_0453 IMG_0435 IMG_0431 IMG_0428 IMG_0465 IMG_0464 IMG_0463 IMG_0461 IMG_0458 IMG_0457 IMG_0466


Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 1 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 15 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 13 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 12 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 11 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 10 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 9 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 8 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 7 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 5 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 4 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 3 Hydrangeas, Trebah Gardens, Cornwall 2


Planting hyssop and other bee- / butterfly- / moth-friendly plants in a resurrected border last summer is paying dividends this year. Butterflies and moths that I have never seen (noticed) in the garden before have taken to the new arrangements in a big way. This is the only painted lady I have seen this year, and she didn’t stay long – but I’m glad she paused briefly when I was right there with a camera…

Painted Lady, Dorset 1 Painted Lady, Dorset 2

A BUG THAT’S BUGGING ME: ANY ID IDEAS? [It’s a Gasteruption Jaculator, a parasitic wasp]

Mystery Insect Dorset03 It doesn’t take much to stump me in the natural world, even with online resources. But what the heck is this little bugger I photographed today? It’s probably obvious; maybe it’s an insect in an intermediate state of metamorphosis. Or something. But I’ve never seen one before. Or if I have, I didn’t notice it. The last time I found a mystery insect (not in the UK), it turned out to be a spider or pepsis wasp, also known as a tarantula hawk, which has the second most painful sting of any insect. I posted about this creature in my main blog HERE, but here is an excerpt dealing with the sting and the ‘pain scale’.  The sting of these wasps is among the most painful of any insect, though the most intense pain lasts on a few minutes. Entomologist Justin Schmidt bravely submitted himself to the stings of various insects and described this pain as “…immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations.”  Schmidt produced his SCHMIDT STING PAIN INDEX The pain scale, based on 78 species, runs from 0 to 4, with 4 given for the most intense pain. Spider Wasps of the species Pepsis – i.e. Tarantula Hawks – have a sting rating of 4.0, described as “blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath” Only the bite of the Bullet Ant (not found on Abaco!) is ranked higher, with a 4.0+ rating, vividly described as pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel”

ADDENDUM (within 2 hours of posting!)

I knew someone would ride to the rescue. Jessica Winder of the excellent blog has come up with the answer – see Comments for details. Suffice it to say that this creature has the Monty Pythonesque name Gasteruption Jaculator (there are other… no. Im not going down that road). It is a parasitic wasp. WIKI says “The head and thorax are completely black. The head is strongly rounded, the thorax is elongated in a sort of long neck, which separates the head from the body. The abdomen is strongly stretched, broader at the posterior end and placed on the upper chest. The colour of the abdomen is black, with reddish-orange rings. The tibiae of the hind legs are club shaped. In the female the ovipositor is usually very long with a white tip. In resting position, these wasps slowly and rhythmically raise and lower the abdomen. The females of this parasitic wasp lays its eggs by its long ovipositor on the body of larvae of solitary bees or wasps. On hatching its young larvae will devour grubs and supplies of pollen and nectar of its victim. The adults grow up to 10–17 millimetres (0.39–0.67 in) long and can mostly be encountered from May through September feeding on Apiaceae species.” Mystery Insect Dorset04 Mystery Insect Dorset05 Mystery Insect Dorset06 Mystery Insect Dorset07 Mystery Insect Dorset09 Mystery Insect Dorset10


We recently came across this striking purple iris and I was struck by the rich colouring. They aren’t rare, I know, but they are certainly less usual than the common blue / mauve varieties; and also than the more familiar yellow ones (shown below).
Purple Iris 1Purple Iris 2Purple Iris 3Purple Iris 4Yellow Iris 1Yellow Iris 2Yellow Iris 3


Caillez Lemaire Plaque

The hillsides of the fertile valley of the Marne west of Epernay are almost entirely dedicated to the vine and its various products – not just champagne and wine, but also ratafia (like sherry only far nicer) and marc. There are major producers here, such as Moët et Chandon and Lanson. However every village – for example Damery and Cumières – has many independent producers or Récoltant manipulates (RM) who produce wine from their own grapes in small quantities. These operations are often found in unassuming and apparently small village houses, with the equipment for wine production housed in the basement.  None of this champagne is exported but  it is often of outstanding quality, outdoing many or most mainstream non-vintage champagnes at a fraction of the price. The only problem is, one has to go and get it; and a special occasion is the only way to justify the expedition… Here are some spring vineyards above Cumières. 

Champagne Vineyards above Cumières 1Champagne Vineyards above Cumières 2Champagne Vineyards above Cumières 5Champagne Vineyards above Cumières 6Champagne Vineyards above Cumières 7Champagne Vineyards above Cumières 8The Moët vineyardsChampagne Vineyards above Cumières 4

The poppies are starting to flower, a reminder of grimmer times in this areaChampagne Vineyards above Cumières 3



The Arum Lilies (Zantedeschia) have just started to unfurl from their green pointy stage, and the flowers are in flawless condition. I took a closer look at the yellow stick in the middle (spadix – I had to google ‘yellow stick in arum lily’).

Arum Lilies SBA 1 Arum Lilies SBA 2 Arum Lilies SBA 3 Arum Lilies SBA 4Arum Lilies SBA 7

Looking down the spadix, the tightly packed nobbles (nodules?) are beginning to open out into strange little mushroomy shapes. I have no idea what’s going on there, except that it is presumably to do with pollination. Strangely, the bees don’t seem attracted to the flower, which may be poisonous to them.Arum Lilies SBA 5 Arum Lilies SBA 6

Spring. Time to reset the sundial to summertime. This armillary (or bow) sundial was made in Dorset, and rests on a chunk of cut cornish Delabole slate. If you are passing the quarry, they have a slate pile from which you can take offcuts.

Sundial SBA 1