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Fruit tree conservation group, wasps nest, mystery intruder, kestrel again!

Date posted: Wednesday 27th November 2019

Fruit tree conservation group, wasps nest, mystery intruder, kestrel again!

There are some old fruit trees, apple and pear, in the wildlife area and Ruth’s organised a group – Conservation Fruit Trees, to bring them back to good health and maintenance. A group of us went up on Sunday, to have a look at the trees from the beehive area side (apples had been dropping onto a hive under the old Bramley). Jon closed up his active hive so as to create least disturbance for them (and us!). Some of the brambles were cleared to free up a lower apple tree branch and around some of the trees. The project’s being carried out with due care and attention to the undisturbed nature of this wildlife area.

Carol found this amazing wasps nest in her composter. It looks from close up like something from ‘Star Wars’ – an intergalactic space station. Such an intricate and complex structure all wisped from wood mixed with wasp saliva. Wasps get a bad press but, like bees, they are extraordinary social creatures. The life cycle of the wasp, like bees is brief for all but the queens:
“Wasps are magnificent architects. In late spring, large wasps can be seen. These are queens who are looking for suitable nest sites. These can be deserted mammal holes, cracks in walls or holes in trees. The nests are made from chewed up wood and wasp saliva that creates a paper-like material.
Wasps are social animals. A queen will begin by building a cylindrical column known as a petiole which is covered by a chemical produced by the queen which repels ants. When she’s finished, she produces a single cell and surrounds it with a further six cells, giving the cells their characteristic hexagonal shape. She continues building cells in a layer until she has 20-30 then lays an egg in each. Once the eggs have hatched she divides her time between feeding the larvae and nest building.
At full size larvae spin a cover over their cell until they have developed into adult workers. These are the smaller wasps, seen later in the summer, who are gathering proteins to feed the larvae and sugars to feed themselves. It’s this need for sugar that attracts them to your jam sandwiches or fizzy drinks. With enough adults fully grown the queen can focus on reproduction and is then fed by the workers in the nest. Each nest may contain 5,000-10,000 individuals and is spherical in shape.
In late summer new queens and male drones emerge from the nest. Each colony contains only one queen and after mating in late autumn the new queens overwinters in holes or other sheltered locations. Colonies only last one year and once the new queens departs all the other wasps in the colony die.” (Buglife)

A mystery visitor had started excavating a green bin composter on Sarah, Max and Evie’s plot. Tell tale evidence led us to think it was probably a fox scrabbling for juicy worms in the bottom of the composter – not trying to make a comfortable winter residence!

On the way back from Sunday’s work group I was able to get up quite close to the juvenile kestrel, perching nonchalantly in Flora’s plum tree.