Monday, 29 June 2009

Beavers and Bumblebees

Tony Morgan is one of the inhabitants of Bamff. In fact he and Barbara live in the ground floor flat. Morgan is a man of high standards and regrets that the verges of the drive are not mown.

'All those weeds!' he exclaims, determined to wind me up.

In this, Tony shows that, along with so many people, he has a tidiness aesthetic that is often unfriendly to biodiversity.

On the other hand, I am delighted with the abundant growth of plants and what this means for other wildlife, whether it is the hedgehog that scuttled into the undergrowth as we drove by on our return from a party one night, or the bees and hoverflies that buzz to and fro in search of pollen and nectar.

I noticed this spider on some ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) this afternoon, while trying out a borrowed macro lens on my camera. The spider sat discreetly in the middle of a very fine web. It would be great to know its identity.

And this brilliant fly. There is the metallic green one that lays its eggs in wounds in animals, but I think this one is different.

Bernd Heinrich's 'Bumblebee Economics' was first published in 1979 and republished with a new preface in 2004. It is a classic work.

The first chapter starts with a description of bogs and their association with bumblebees and beavers. He writes from the perspective of someone who lives in Maine, where beaver bogs are relatively rare bits of open ground in a country where heavy shade is cast by the forest. Flowering plants can flourish in the swamps created by beavers.

In that respect this country is very different and yet there is a similarity in that diversity of flora is denied to invertebrates by the practices of modern agriculture and forestry. The recovery of wetland is, therefore, vital to the continued existence of many life forms.

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