Friday, 6 December 2013



Amongst my early morning listening I caught an article on BBC 4 which was an article on the world-wide disappearance of insects, butterflies and moths necessary to fertilize our crops in the fields and gardens.

Bees are dying of varroa, insecticides kill wild bumblebees, moths, hover flies, ladybirds and a myriad of others I would not even recognize, nor would a large number of the green conservationists.

I have suffered severely from the loss of bees from my beehives not only in Cornwall but here in Tuscany and on trying to refill my colony this year have been told that my friend has just lost 65 hives full of bees. Not all through infestation of mites but the length and low temperatures of our past winter.

So no bees this year (2010), well not in my hives.

Our spring has been no better than our winter and in June by now we would expect uninterrupted sunshine. Instead we have two or three days of sweltering heat, upon which we switch on all cooling possible within the house and then three days of cold when all fires are lit again!

Today, on walking up the driveway I was stopped in my tracks beneath the lime trees by the sound of bees and a myriad of other insects sucking the lime flowers dry of pollen and nectar. This is not a sound, it is a loud noise! Something one would not expect from something so small but multiplied by one hundred thousand, is really quite loud.
I stood and examined our hungry visitors. The list, if I had known half of their names, would have filled a foolscap page. Insects of every size, colour, and uglieness were filling their tummies with food either for themselves or their young. Butterflies covered the trees, proboscis rampant! Probably moths will join their throng at dusk, together with the fire-flies. So here in Italy, apparently the farmers will have their crops pollinated this year.

In England, only common sense tells us that as more and more hedgerows are grubbed out and more herbicides are used, then more of our wildlife will suffer. Nobody, least of all the government seem to care. They will when it is too late and even then they will blame somebody else.

Insects have more than their fair share of predators as well as mankind and this was proven by one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. Something I will remember when I lie on my couch preparing myself to meet my Maker.

Following my walk beneath the lime trees to mow the olive terraces, mulling over the extraordinary amount of wild life non extant in our area of farmland in Italy, I climbed onto my tractor.
Out of a clear blue sky I was hit by an avalanche of fifty black javelins giving an aerobatic display that could be described as showing off.

My tractor was surrounded, dive-bombed, hassled, skimmed, frightened, stopped, startled, its safety endangered, by a black cloud of the most beautiful, chattering, streamlined blue-black spitfires.

Something I was doing by cutting the long grass had signaled a mid day feast to these heavenly creatures and that, together with teaching their newly flying young how to hunt had led to a feeding frenzy of extraordinary proportions.
I had not taken my camera, I was not expecting anything unusual to happen.  When I found it it was an impossible sight to catch on film. They were just too fast.

The birds would come hand in hand in a straight line, five abreast towards the tractor and at the last moment having caught whatever the tractor was putting up, peel off on either side to feed again. I swear one or two were so close they were taking a fly off my nose.
They made hand-break turns, barrel rolls and gave a display that could only be beaten by one of their own kind.

The Red Arrows had nothing on them.   Totally Brilliant!

No comments: