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Bees, Autumn webs, indigo, frog, let's hear it for ivy! and chiffchaffs

Date posted: Wednesday 2nd October 2019

Bees, Autumn webs, indigo, frog, let's hear it for ivy! and chiffchaffs

The bees are making the most of the sun when it comes out between the heavy rains – yesterday the heavens opened in a torrential downpour with thunder and lightning over Richmond Station. As soon as the rain stops out emerge the bees for late foraging opportunities.After the seemingly endless, settled days of hot Indian summer sun and clear blue skies the change to the heavy rain showers and more ‘seasonal’ autumn weather has been intense. No frosts yet, although there’s that autumnal nip in the air In the mornings, and suddenly visible are spiders’ webs, those intricate and extraordinary structures:

“One of the wonders of spiders is their ability to spin silk, a material that is, weight for weight, stronger than steel and Kevlar™. Silk is a ‘fibroin’ or ‘structure’ protein; rich in the amino acid cystine that gives the silk its strength. It is secreted by special glands at the end of the abdomen and is used for many purposes. Females bundle their eggs in sacs of silk to carry them around and protect them from predators and parasites. Males use it to form a platform on which they deposit sperm in order that they can charge their palps prior to mating. It is used to build retreats in which to hide, moult, lay eggs, aestivate and rest. Strands are used to make trip lines for detecting prey. Silken guidelines are secreted as the spider roams and can act as a lifeline should the spider fall or drop to safety when disturbed. Most familiar of all uses is in the production of silken snares and traps for prey.” (Spider’s Webs, British Arachnological Society).

One of our newer plotholders is growing indigo, woad and other plants used in dyeing. As well as growing football sized cauliflowers she’s also produced this patch of indigo, that produces a beautiful purple-blue colour.

This handsome, large frog was caught between a brick and the side of the water tank, presumably enjoying the cool on a rather warm day.

Also making most of the last days of the season are the wasps, one of which stung me on the top of my head this morning – ouch! My fault for getting too close to the composter where they have an active nest. And, as every year around this time, I do my shout for ivy, such an important plant for bees and wasps that feast on the flowers in this late time of year when much elso is dying back.

Small, yellowish birds with thin pointy beaks caught my eye, flitting among the willow branches – I thought they were willow warblers but then the tell-tale ‘Chiffchaff, chiffchaff’ calls gave the game away. A delight to see them on a lovely day of bright autumn sun against a clear blue sky, before the next band of wet weather hits us sometime tomorrow!