2 March 2009
turbans, grubs and a taste for the sweeter things
I was having the usual pre-work look about (these are no different from the 'during-' and the 'post-' ones - I am easily distracted) and came across a small green turban perched up a phygelius. Velvety soft and full of leaf this moth caterpillar was busy being invisible. Looking over the rest of the bush revealed each stem had its own coiled sleeper sat on top of doilied leaves. A surprising number of caterpillars feed through the winter, eating fast and growing slowly, safe this time of year from the voracious predatory ants and wasps of summer. Usually these caterpillars are hidden beneath the leaves and at the base of plants. I wondered if the sun had brought them out to warm themselves. Wouldn't that be lovely - sunbathing caterpillars.Definitely not sunbathing was this grubby fellow brought up from the depths on the end of a shovel. At first glance I thought it was a leatherjacket, a Daddylonglegs larvae (you may call them Craneflies but where's the fun in that?) but with real and pro- legs it is a caterpillar. Up to some dastardly subterranean mischief involving roots no doubt. I generally don't worry about such things - out of sight, out of mind.
The sun had also brought a fine crowd of Satan's little helpers out to warm themselves and to grab a more wholesome bite than their usual fare. Whilst bumblebees are early to work the winter and early spring flowers are mostly visited by big buzzy blowflies sucking up nectar and spreading pollen. They may be rather revolting but they have been key for the successful spread of shrubby spurge through the garden. Life is too short for pollinating by brush.
The spurge, euphorbia characias, has big green heads of small open flowers with easy access nectaries so there is no need for long bee tongues to get at the goodies. When the sun's out they are attended constantly by the vomiting hordes sucking up sugars.
You may want to keep your mouth shut if inspecting them closely. Those big buzzers are raised on the best the WestEnd offers and you probably won't want that inside you.