An unexpected robber

'The grass in Oak Meadow has just been cut. It is rather late in the year, you might think and you would be right. Most farmers have baled their hay long ago. But there are creatures and plants in our fields that need to prepare for winter and may need this extra time. Some of them also rely on the swathes of grass we have left at the side, near the hedges – rather like set aside.

The late-flowering field scabious has only just released its seeds. The grasshopper needs time to lay its eggs deep in the soil, out of harm’s way. The blue butterfly larvae are there too and the spiders are tucked away in a dry corner. The queen bumble bees have buried themselves in deserted mouse holes, waiting for a warm day next spring. The triangular chrysalis of the orange tip butterfly is clinging on to a dried stem of Jack-by-the-hedge. A field cut early cannot always allow for this wildlife to thrive.

Our hedges are also being cut just now, which again seems late in the year. It is not so many years ago that all field hedges used to be cut in the first few days of August.

I know that sometimes the hedges get overgrown and footpaths are difficult or a road sign is hidden. But I have seen a blackbirds’ nest full of nestlings exposed to predators after an early cut.' 

I expect you have seen netting on hedges to stop birds nesting so that building work can be done. It has become controversial because other creatures like toads and hedgehogs could be trapped and die. There are no easy answers but, at least, now we are all a lot more aware of wild creatures and the advice is to cut hedges later rather than earlier.

One creature here has not considered other wildlife at all. We have beehives on a field called Goose Bottom. It faces south and is sheltered by a hedge. The bees have happily foraged in the fields and orchard for years. But this year they have not done well. It could be that we closed our gates to isolate and the beekeepers could not get here, but there is another factor that I hadn’t bargained for.

The wasps have been. They have, somehow, managed to get through the guard bees at the entrance and have broken into the hive. They have forced their way in to steal the honey, but not only that, they have taken the hive over completely and have built their large papery nest inside amongst the honeycombs. The hard-working bees have had to abandon. There are plenty of places the wasps could have chosen and lived happily with the bees, but they didn’t, and whilst they thrived, another creature suffered.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)


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