Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

Houses to let

Houses this year are very popular. Both the Mason and the Leaf-cutter bees have practically filled up all of the vacancies and there have been very few homes left empty and as yet, apart from some being obviously too narrow or too wide, I have not been able to find out why the remaining homes, which look perfect from the outside are left and not taken up some years.

The bees appeared to be keener than ever this year to increase their numbers and they moved with amazing alacrity to fill as many suitable crevices within both the wooden Insect tenements. First the Mason bees had their pick and packed the tube houses with mud – then just before they had finished possessing as many properties as they were able, the slightly larger Leaf-cutter bees shook themselves about and proceeded to claim all of the remaining suitable vacancies. Never have I seen such an array of colours and materials being stuffed into the entrances to make the front doors secure.

Busy bee working hard on her new house This shows one of the larger Leaf-cutter bees scraping around the edge of the bamboo making sure that it is spick and span before sorting it out as a suitable nesting home


The insect house 2013


Houses to let

This shows the variety of materials used to seal the front doors of each of the compartments. You can see the mud or clay used by the Mason bees as well as the large variety and colours of the leaves used by the Leaf-cutter bees.

Jungle jewel weaves magical tentacles creating a perfect paradise

I must admit that as the Spring rolled out in front of me I thought that I had lost all of last years’ perennial garden purchases including the Everlasting Sweet Pea or Perennial Sweet Pea as it is often called. It was late rising from the ground and despite searching and searching there was no sign of any green shoots in the place where I planted out my plants. Then one day I noticed a leaf and a tendril that was pea shaped. After just a few weeks more this wonderful plant surprised me with the speed that it grew. It hangs on the branches of the apple trees pushing itself higher and higher. I am so pleased that I have it in the garden. Its flowers are not strong in perfume, in fact, their scent is so mild that you need a good nose to find it. It rewards with so many stems, each holding perfect jewels and just two or three make an excellent posy.

Although it is known as a European plant its popularity has spread throughout many countries. It produces pods of seeds once the flowers are spent and I will be tempted to grow a few more of these beautiful plants. They are also known for occasionally self-seeding creating new plants around the original parent plant. Once the plants have established themselves it will also be possible to split them taking a portion from the root and making a new plant for another area of the garden.

Everlasting Sweet Pea - Perennial Sweet Pea - Lathyrus latifolius 2

Everlasting Sweet Pea - Perennial Sweet Pea - Lathyrus latifolius

 Everlasting Sweet Pea - Perennial Sweet Pea - Lathyrus latifolius

Everlasting Sweet Pea - Perennial Sweet Pea - Lathyrus latifolius 3

 Everlasting Sweet Pea - Perennial Sweet Pea - Lathyrus latifolius (this picture taken in the late evening)

Attack, attack!!

Recently we found a grub or larvae, on three separate occasions, inside the top of the hive. On the first occasion the small grub/larvae was moving on a level piece of wood just under the Perspex viewing lid. On the second and third occasion the grub was cocooned in a long silky ball which it appeared to be still making.

We found out that this was the larvae of a wax moth. It is difficult looking at the grub/larvae to tell which out of the two varieties of wax moth that enter hives this one could be. There is a Greater Wax Moth and a Lesser Wax Moth. The Greater Wax Moth is said to chew out small alcoves in the wooden parts of the hive in which to pupate whilst the Lesser Wax Moth has no need to make a groove in the wood before pupating. With that in mind, we concluded that what we had would appear to be the larvae of the Lesser Wax Moth, as we could find no damage to any of the wooden areas of the hive.

Wax moth larvae - next to one penny piece for size comparison


Wax moth larvae

Greater Wax Moth - Galleria mellonella or Lesser Wax Moth Achroia grisella

Little note for bee lovers:
Bees are noted for their cleanliness and tidiness. So as long as the brood is healthy and plentiful and well inspected there should be no need to worry about the appearance of occasional wax moths. Both types of wax moth (especially the Greater Wax Moth) are more dangerous if there are areas of stale and dirty cone in the hive or if the bees have been assaulted by Varroa Mites or devastated by other enemies or attacked by a long, bleak, cold Winter or indeed a long, cool wet Spring.

Pollen planet; balls of pollen

It is fascinating that so much valuable food is produced from the fertilization of flowers. Honey bees collect pollen from the flowers and store it on the lower part of their hind legs where the tiny balls of pollen are grouped together to form an elongated ball.

Pollen grains in a ball carried by a honey bee 1

The first picture shows the honey bee ball of collected pollen that was accidentally dropped by one of the female worker bees at the foot of the hive. It is made up of thousands of pollen grains that look as though they have all been collected off one particular species of flower.


Pollen grains 7


Pollen grains 5


Pollen grains 3

The three pictures above are a close-up of all of the pollen grains that make up the top picture of the pollen ball. The individual pollen grains look like eggs or particles of sand. Amazingly the pollen grains all stick together to form the shape that the bee carries back to the hive. The actual ‘pollen ball’ looks nearer in colour to the first few pictures and the camera has lightened the last picture whilst I was trying to focus and enlarge the pollen grains.

Pollen is a protein and is used by the bees when rearing their young.

Pollen has also been found to be a health food for humans and so if an extra amount has been collected by the bees then excess may be gathered and eaten by humans.

It’s all about the entrance ..

The beautiful Buckfast honey bees making their entrance at the hive. The weight of the pollen that they carry on their back legs occasionally falls through the gap between the frames and lands on the floor beneath the hive. When this happens they appear to leave it well alone rather than trying to pick it up to save it and use it inside the hive. Watch to see how industrious they are both entering and leaving the hive.

Albino fish

It was time to add a couple of new fish to the garden pond. We had sadly lost two of our Golden Orfe during one of the several hot periods of the Summer. The heat sucks out the oxygen and leaves the fish gasping. We thought that with all of the oxygenating weed,the filters, a UV box and fountain on for most of the day that the pond was healthy enough to protect the fish and wildlife when the temperature soared. Sadly, although we never actually saw any of the fish gasping at the surface, we now know that the reason we lost the two Orfe was through lack of oxygen in the pond water. Since then we have added a fizzer/bubbler and have run several pipes off it to keep the water moving and provide oxygen bubbles in their thousands for our merry shoal of fish.

When we went into the aquatics centre, besides the goldfish, comets, shubunkins and koi they had Albino Grass Carp with pale skin and pink/red eyes. Although these pale carp were only very small, they appeared to be drawn to everyone as they passed by. I stopped and peered into their tank and immediately a third of all of the masses of fish swam towards where I stood. I then placed my hand just above the water and before I had chance to pull my hand back several jumped up out of the water and kissed my finger tips. I have never seen fish so very, very friendly before. Up and up they jumped and sucked at my fingers. My heart had been captured and so I now have two Albino Grass Carp.

I wondered what I should name them. After a while I decided upon two children’s comic names. So for their friendliness and cheekiness I thought the names Dandy and Beano suited them nicely.

I have hurriedly taken some pictures of them. One day time view which doesn’t do them justice at all and some taken as soon as it became coal black outside and here they are:

Albino grass carp - young fish

 Baby Albino Grass Carp – picture taken during daylight hours with protective netting to keep off the herons

Albino grass carp - picture taken at night

Albino grass carp - picture taken late at night

Albino grass carp - pictured at night

Albino grass carp - eyes light up during night time picture taking

Albino Grass Carp - Ctenopharyngodon idella - taken when it was pitch black – the light from the camera’s flash is picked up on the red eye of one of the fish in the bottom picture

Grass Carp are herbivores and are a useful fish to have in ponds, lakes and rivers as they help to keep water weeds and side growing algae under control


Bee picture perfect

To view an insect, especially a bee, up closely is to see nature’s perfection. Here are some pictures showing a bee drinking some water ..

Bee - Buckfast honey bee - sipping water - close-up at stone water hole

Bee - Buckfast honey bee - sipping water - close-up

Bee - Buckfast honey bee - sipping water

Close-up of a beautiful lady Buckfast honey bee drinking water from a bird bath

Marigold madness cured by the full moon

I have wanted marigolds in my garden for a very long time. I can’t remember how many packets of seeds I have purchased and all to no avail. Then I heard an ancient tale regarding the planting of the marigold seeds. So I thought I would take a chance and follow the chant and see if it works. I now have my very first marigold!

“The marigold flower at the end of its bloom
    dies back to the seed in the shape of the moon.
Plant the seed each October on the night of full moon
    and then every summer the seed will form bloom.”


Marigold and the October chant

Marigold - The marigold flower at the end of its bloom Marigold, Pot Marigold or Calendula - Calendula officinalis

The best flavoured potato in the world

Over the years I have noticed a definite decline in both the quality and the flavour of potatoes. I think I must have tried just about every variety of potato that is available in the High Street both from supermarkets to individual costermongers. Many potatoes have a back taste that is bitter and unpleasant, others are virtually tasteless. Added to this there are those that range from powdery, crumbly, hard or a mixture of all three. Some break up whilst cooking. Some have patches of green. Others sprout their eyes especially during warm spells after a surprising amount of little time.

A couple of years back I came across a potato name that I had never heard of before called ‘Lady Balfour.’ They are everything that a potato should be. Firstly, they have the best flavour that I have ever tasted. It is rich and reliable and most of all nourishing. It makes you feel that your body has received a wonderful healthy boost which leaves ever cell quite satisfied. It is unbelievable as both a baked or roast potato as the middle becomes white and fluffy when cooked and the taste is potato heaven! Added to these attributes it boils and steams well and can also be used when beaten, to add to cakes, scones and puddings.

These are definitely the one and only potato that I would ever consider growing now, they are surely part of a millionaire’s menu. They grow easily and will form excellent plants if you allow one or two to age a little and for their eyes to form little sprouts of a about half a centimetre. Once sprouted cut off a small portion of the potato with the skin under the eye and place it into the ground just covering lightly. Each eye section will form a new plant which will give a medium to large size crop.

Little warning: never be tempted to eat the fruit of the potato – it looks like little green tomatoes but is deadly poisonous!


Lady Balfour potatoes  Lady Balfour potatoes

Nature’s beautiful building blocks and why do we not try this style of creating dwellings

The more we look at what insects (or nature) offer the world with millions of years of knowledge behind their daily activities the more I wonder about the intelligence of man. Years of patient construction to find perfection that guards against the elements is discarded by us as we still insist on placing down concrete or clay bricks and blocks cemented in place. It would be so interesting if scientists took a new look at what the oldest teachers on the planet have silently perfected. Perhaps there may then be safer places for us all to live in.

bee 1  New empty comb produced by the bees in the hive

a New comb - honey beeNew empty comb produced by Buckfast honey bees 

a  New comb produced by the honey bee

a Close up of comb

A close-up section of new comb produced by Buckfast honey bees

a Close up of the comb edges produced by the honey bees

A close-up section of new comb produced by Buckfast honey bees

a Comb close up produced by the honey bee 203

Close-up of virgin comb produced by the Buckfast honey bees

Taphrina deformans – red lumps on peach tree leaves

I have two peach trees in my garden. One was a purchase, a present that was going to be an apricot tree. The other grew from out of the compost heap. Neither of these trees have yet produced any peaches. Both have had red swellings that have formed on the leaves. I had seen red lumps on willow trees as a child so decided to try and find out what had caused them and how I could get rid of them.

The problem however, was taken out of my hands as my husband merrily sprayed the branches with bug spray, left the branches for a week or so and cut off the worst of the problem. This cured both the trees. So when I began to investigate and came across websites stating that the disease taphrina deformans is caused through a fungal infection I think that they may well be quite wrong. I would say it is more likely to be caused through an infection possibly a virus spread by a microscopic mite such as a similar attacks on willow leaves.

Taphrina deformans - on peach tree leaves

Taphrina deformans - lumps on peach tree leaves

Infected peach leaves with Taphrina deformans

Thankfully both my peach trees are now beautiful with no signs of the red lumps that you see above.

Death chair or death stool growing in the garden

These beautiful, fascinating and quick growing shapes have always been like magic shows in the natural world. Go to bed one evening and the ground is flat. Wake up in the morning and a fungus has pushed its way through the cloth at our feet. Some we cherish as delightful things to eat whilst others bring vomit and quick death. Knowing the difference between the two is essential if you choose to pick your own and if you are ever in doubt then give this pastime a definite miss.

There appears to be no actual conclusion where the name mushroom originated but there are many theories. Toadstool offers a more practical solution as some believe that it came to be by the marriage of two separate German words. This is as follows: there are two words that may be put together to form toadstool. These two German words have the meaning ‘death’ and ‘chair’ or ‘death’ and ‘stool.’ ‘Tod’ meaning death in German and ‘Stuhl’ meaning chair or stool so ‘todstuhl’ and we now say ‘toadstool.’ Nevertheless, these works of art are all beautiful to look at and enchanting the way that they shoot up at an alarming speed from what appeared to be a dormant bed of soil beneath our feet. So remember to look down and see if you can see a ‘todstuhl’ or toadstool and remember where they got their name and why you should always be wary when picking them or their cousins the mushrooms. Never play Russian Roulette and risk your health or life if you are not absolutely certain that was grows at your feet is safe to eat!

Toadstool or todstuhl meaning death chair or death stool in German - close-up

Toadstool or todstuhl meaning death chair or death stool in German - top

Toadstool or todstuhl meaning death chair or death stool in German


Toadstool, remember what it stands for ‘death chair’ or ‘death stool’

The Queen

This was the very first time that I caught a glimpse of our very radiant Queen. It was the first inspection of the hive. This is our new hobby and we are learning as we go.

Full inspections need to take place between every seven to ten days to make sure all the ladies are healthy and that there aren’t any intrusions, parasites or unwanted robbers, etc. It is also necessary to make sure that her Majesty is strong and ruling over her brood. The Queen’s of 2013 all wear a Royal Red Robe and I think that she looks magnificent in all her glory.

First Frame Inspection 1

Me inspecting Frame Number 1 – decided not to wear the leather bee gloves but instead opted for little rubber-backed builder’s gloves


First Inspection - one of the original frames of the Nuc

Me inspecting one of the original frames supplied with the Nuc – the bottom cells are the brood (new bees growing from eggs) the top are their food supplies – capped honey cells

The Queen

The Queen wears red – she is so majestic, don’t you think? 

Queen eggs hatch after only three days and emerge from their cells after around 16 days – they fly for their virgin mating at around 22 days and begin egg laying approximately on day 23 or 24

This is a Buckfast colony

The Queen - wears redThe Queen wears red

My sweet cat is no more

When I was a young girl, I never thought that I would ever either have a pet cat or indeed love a pet cat. I grew up in a hamlet or very small village and my only experience with cats at that time were tabby cats that scavenged freely in dustbins both by day and by night. The lids on the metal bins would clatter to the ground and out would pop two or three scrawny, dusty and occasionally greasy cats. Sometimes they would be chewing at something, often they would be carrying scraps in their mouths. In those days all kinds of rubbish and kitchen waste found its way into the bins. These dustbins often smelt strongly of both death, rotting vegetation and ash combined. A smell which is difficult to describe but once experienced is surely never forgotten.  My mother would usher me quickly away from any cats that were lurking around as though my soul would be scarred forever if they got near enough to touch me. So it is with this unlikely background that I got persuaded by my children to get a pet cat for them.

We decided upon a little black and white kitten from an animal sanctuary. She was one of a litter of kittens born to a young kitten as her mother was less than six months old when she was born. Amazingly, despite being the weakest and smallest of the litter, she was the only survivor and so when she came into our lives we somewhat spoilt her. This we continued to do until very sadly lying in her basket she drew her last breath.

I will always have loving and fond memories of our lovely cat as she had the sweetest disposition; she didn’t learn to miaow until she was around thirteen years old and up until then she hardly made any noise at all.

Goodbye our little cat ..

Our Sweet Cat png

Poor plum pickings

The last two years have been good for beautiful billows of juicy plums. Masses and masses of both orchard fruits and wild ones. This year appears to be almost barren of these lovely sweet and juicy fruits. The question that I ask myself is, will the small quantity of fruit that are barely clinging to the branches manage to hold on long enough to ripen?

Young plums Plums green Plum solitary ..... This year’s harvest of plums – it doesn’t look as though I shall have many to eat!

I have forgotten which is the Greengage tree so I shall have to feel them to make sure that I do not waste any as Greengages are one of my most favourite of plums!! Greengages are one of the oldest varieties of plums they are probably the very sweetest and juiciest of all of the plum family. When ripe, their skin remains green in colour and their soft juicy flesh turns slightly yellow.

The Damson tree is totally barren this year!!!

Sadly, I have only had three edible cherries off the tree (these are also stone fruits).

Comment: Although the stone fruit harvest of 2013 is set to be a poor one, all of the berries and droops are plentiful. Many of the berries and droops are larger than their normal size and every one is both juicier and much sweeter than I have ever known them to be before.

*Droops are raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, cloudberries, etc.


Spy in the sky

Is it simply wanderlust or maybe pushing a person’s very immortality? A feeling of power? Being selflessly brave, totally free, no ties or responsibilities that makes certain people take the ultimate risk to push themselves nearer and nearer to the edge of the cliff of life? Further and further to that precipice place where a revolver of chance will decide whether they may live or die? Whether they are a spy in the sky, an ice and snow land gulper, a mountaineer, an explorer or a depth stroller the one thing that they have in common is the lack of value of their very being. I’ve often wondered why that would be? Wherever they may go or whatever they may see could surely never be as beautiful as the morning sun dancing on the flowers. It will dance long after their time is gone but why make that time shorter? The value of a second in time to a dying man is worth more than every diamond in a mine.   


A lone adventurer flying in a current of wind came into the view of my camera – a spy in the sky!

Spy guy

Spy in the sky

Spy in the sky

Nose cuts and nose splits

There are a percentage of the population which are prone to getting cuts or splits in the tender soft tissue inside either one or both nostrils. It is very difficult to heal these cuts as nose tissue is both damp and inclined to hold bacteria. This condition is both painful and sore.

The best solution which works remarkably well and quite swiftly in the majority of sufferers is pure organic coconut oil. Place the coconut oil all around and inside the nostril before washing the face two or three times each day until the nose is quite comfortable. Coconut oil is the best cure for this problem as it kills off bad bacteria leaving good bacteria in place. It also kills off any fungal spores. It works better than petroleum jelly because it heals and protects. It is nature’s magic healing potion. One little warning and that is try and purchase organic oil so that it is pure and free from any additives that may irritate or even worsen the problem. Some people find that coconut oil works much better for them if they also consume a spoonful each day of treatment.

It cured me within a few days when nothing else worked! Touch wood, the problem has never returned.



Nose cuts and nose splits and how to cure the problem

Digging for gold

One member of the daisy family that I have wanted in my garden for a very long time is Golden Rod. Now I have purchased a lovely plant and it has flowered for me in its first year in the garden. My Grandma who the family always lovingly referred to as Nan had one of these plants in her garden so it holds some lovely memories for me.

This particular variety is often known as Canadian Golden Rod or Solidago Canadensis and usually grows wild in North America and Canada but is a cottage garden plant in England. It is a member of the daisy family and if you look closely you will see hundreds or thousands of tiny bright golden daisies on every stem. It attracts pollinating insects who sip up its sugary nectar a tiny flower at a time. It’s a good plant to have in the garden to attract nectar feeding insects and below a Gatekeeper butterfly with a slightly damaged wing is feeding furiously on flower after flower. The versions that are often found in gardens today are small and stocky compared to those that sway about in the countryside.

Golden Rod, Daisy Rod, Golden Daisy, Solidago Canadensis, member of the daisy family Golden Rod - Solidago Canadensis with a Gatekeeper Butterfly in an English Garden

Golden Rod - a million golden daisies attracts flying pollinating insects - the Gatekeeper Butterfly  The Gagekeeper Butterfly rests after sucking up the nectar on a Golden Rod Daisy Plant A Gatekeeper sharing a Golden Rod flower head with a Green Bottle Fly or Blow Fly - Phaenicia sericata or Lucilia sericata

The bottom picture shows a Canadian Golden Rod plant (Solidago Canadensis) with both a Gatekeeper Butterfly sometimes called The Hedge Brown Butterfly (Pyronia tithonus) and a Green Bottle Fly or Blow Fly (Phaenicia sericata or Lucilia sericata)

What surprised me probably more than anything is that the common Green Bottle or Blow Fly often feasts on the nectar of the flowers so despite his bad name of eating up rotting flesh he also is essential for pollinating plants

Green Bottle - Blow Fly - Phaenicia sericata or Lucilia sericataGreen Bottle Fly or Blow Fly (Phaenicia sericata or Lucilia sericata) drinking nectar from the tiny daisy heads of a Canadian Golden Rod plant (Solidago Canadensis)

Save the planet and become a beekeeper

I add trees to my garden whenever I can. It is said that trees are the lungs of the planet and if we want to preserve any kind of life for our children’s children – then we must plant more and save ancient forests wherever possible. Added to the threat of damaged planet lungs we are now informed that bees are dying in their billions. As those of you who have visited my Blog before will know I have insect houses which initially attracted the lovely Leaf-cutter bees and now attract both Leaf-cutter and Mason bees. They are now regular yearly visitors. They make their nests, lay their eggs and their young hatch and busy themselves pollinating the flowers and plants in the local neighbourhood.

So now I am becoming a beekeeper. A beekeeper of the honey bee and after much research have decided upon the Buckfast honey bee. Although initially I thought there was almost a deluge of information about becoming a beekeeper I soon found out just how much I was really in the dark when it came to the ‘brass tacks’ of the matter. Everything I had seen suggested that I would have to suit and boot and look like someone working in a nuclear power plant but I have found that this is an over-reaction at least when keeping the Buckfast honey bee.

The main thing that required a fair bit of research was what type of hive to purchase. In the end and because I am not that good at woodwork, it seemed best to purchase a ready made one. A nice solid cedar hive will hopefully last quite a few years.

After yet more research I uncovered a secret on how to make the wood last longer .. the trick apparently is to rag the outside of the wood with Danish Oil. Allow the first coat to soak in then apply a second coat – this waterproofs the wood and protects it without encouraging wasps who rasp treated wood to make their paper nests with.

So here is a picture of the hive showing the few straggling bees left at the entrance – the remainder of about fifteen thousand or may be a little less are inside:

New hive - early days


From where I obtained my hive

*As you know I am not one for advertising, so this is I suppose rather more of a recommendation as I am so pleased with the received product: the above hive was beautifully made up and posted directly to my door from http://www.peak-hives.co.uk/

The sweetest most gentle of honey bees in the world

It is my belief that the most sweetest and gentle of all of the honey bees in the entire world is the Buckfast. It is a busy little bee that is quite robust. It produces just a few drones and the remainder of the hive is made up of the Queen, Workers and Nurses. To make sure that the Buckfast remain sweet and gentle you must follow simple rules. These are perfectly sensible:

    • Never wear perfume or strong smelling items of fragrance when going near to the hive
    • Never make sudden movements – move slowly and never flick bees away from you
    • Never blow onto the bees – they do not like human breath
    • Never make loud noises
    • Never show fear of the bees – it is claimed that they sense fear and it makes them fearful too
    • And …… never wear dark colours around bees – they will fly towards people dressed in dark colours and treat them as a threat

These are the simple rules that allow you to see the bees as they naturally are – simply beautiful and the sweetest most gentle of honey bees in the world!

The Buckfast Bee A worker Buckfast honey bee


Bees at entrance with pollen

The entrance of a bee hive where the Buckfast honey bees are coming and going – some have pollen. They are very patient with each other, quiet and orderly with a lovely quiet, gentle hum.