Saying Happy Father’s Day with a bunch of wild orchids

Bee Orchid with fathers day greeting

One of the primary motivations for embarking on this blog was as a Father’s Day gift last year, as a tool for communicating how things were going with the new bees, given that Dad was a major venture capitalist in the hive & honey project (a generous birthday gift). And given that he is interested in many aspects of nature, especially all things botanical – being a fabulous plantsman blessed with truly green fingers.

On safari in the garden, a few days ago, I came across this beauty, the Bee Orchid, which ties the two themes of bees and botany rather neatly together. It was a moment of pure serendipity, discovering such a beautiful flower, just metres from the house. I counted nine such stems in all.

Bee orchid (Ophyrys apifera)

Bee orchid (Ophyrys apifera)

As if that wasn’t enough, a few minutes further into the safari, my eye was drawn to this rather tangled bloom…

Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum)

Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum)

It’s a lizard orchid and the petals unfurl from the bottom of the stem to the top, and the largest specimen, over by the hen house,  is over a metre tall (a record 115 centimeters to be exact – I’ve just had to update Wikipedia!)

Wild Lizard Orchid, with furled petals

I was now on a roll, and soon spotted a third wild orchid -a pyramid orchid. There is a veritable patch of them, and they have superceded the grape hyacinth – at first glance I took them to be close cousins.

Pyramid Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

Pyramid Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

And finally, this single Tongue Orchid, discovered a few weeks ago is still going strong, despite the threat from the lawn mower.

Tongue Orchid (Serapias lingua)

Tongue Orchid (Serapias lingua)

Happy Father’s Day, Dad – I can’t claim to have spent many an hour nurturing these beauties in a greenhouse or on a window sill, but I do hope that you like this bunch of wildflowers, free in many senses of the word.

Born Free

Born Free

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Airbus A350 – the latest first flight in Toulouse

Airbus A350 - first flight

Airbus A350 – first flight

There was a big buzz of excitement all around the perimeter of Toulouse Blagnac airport this morning, as crowds gathered to witness the maiden test flight of a brand new aircraft – the A350.

Weather conditions were perfect, big blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds, and barely a breath of wind. We found a good vantage point on a small hillock, surrounded by wildflowers, right at the end of the runway. My camera lens was distracted downwards, as there was quite alot of bee activity in amongst the poppies…

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But, stop it, we were here to witness the aeronautical abilities of an altogether different extra-wide bodied phenomenon.

The tension was palpable – many folk in the crowd were directly involved in some way with the design and creation of the new airliner. Just before 10 o’clock, a small corvette aeroplane took off in advance of the A350 – full of video equipment, with experts to observe the exterior of the A350 during its test flight.

And then, right on time, no fuss, the A350 started off down the runway and was soon airborne.

Airbus A350 takes to the skies

Airbus A350 takes to the skies

The plane is expected to fly for four hours, over France and the Atlantic, before returning early this afternoon – and then ready itself for the airshow in Paris next week.

bon voyage

bon voyage

Not everything in the garden is rosy

Hurrah, at last, a bit of seasonal warmth. It has been so wet and so fresh for weeks now that I was beginning to wonder if the bees could hang on much longer. Today, finally, it’s sunny and warm and the bees are out in force.

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roses are red

The roses are all doing well, but this ancient variety is definititely their favourite – the bees are numerous and the activity is somewhat phrenetic.

Over in the herb garden, the chive flowers are attracting much attention – from butterflies, bumblebees and honey bees alike.

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chive flowers are blue

However, hiding in amongst the charming chive flowers, dark forces are at work – and this poor honey bee has become a victim.

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Crab Spider (Xysticus) enjoying a spot of honey bee for lunch

Another unwelcome visitor in the garden is the Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina) – also a predator of bees. The following image is actually a European Hornet (Vespo crabro) which has been adeptly neutralised by a swift knock from Andy’s mobile phone, its thorax becoming squished in the process. This hornet is not reviled as much as its Asian counterpart, but is nonetheless not something I am fond of finding near the house.

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European Hornet (Vespa crabro)

I put out some bottle traps for the Asian Hornet monsters a few weeks ago, especially near the hives. These are simple devices constructed from 2 empty water bottles and filled to a depth of about 10 centimetres with a mixture made up of brown beer, white wine and a syrupy cordial such as grenadine. These traps do attract other flying creatures (crucially not bees or butterflies), and the liquid bait will contain flies and moths, but essentially they are targeted at attracting hornets. Here is the haul from one bottle after just a few days…

an assortment of hornets from a bottle trap

an assortment of hornets from a bottle trap

The metal grill is back on th hive – this narrows the entrance to the hive, so that, in theory, only the honey bees can gain access. And I’ll be keeping an eye out for a nest – these tend to be spherical, often high up in trees, but also in other sheltered spots. Here is an example of what I’m on the lookout for …

Asian Hornet nest

To end on a happy note, we go back to the chive flowers and a contented bumblebee.

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Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) investigating chive flower

Abeille Road

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Abeille Road

Yesterday, Jean-Philippe rang to see if I could come and Help!

It was a case of Good Day Sunshine, and the time had come time to move the bees, from the temporary ruchette (nucleus) into a proper sized hive. So time to Drive My Car down the Long and Winding Road, over to JP’s house.

Two new hives, all colourful and freshly painted AND numbered, were ready and waiting, along with JP’s two latest gadget purchases – a metal rack, which hooks over the side of the hive, to hold frames, and a gripping tool for the lifting and maneovering of frames.

Hold Me Tight

Hold Me Tight

The first step was to carefully lift the ruchette and place it just to the side, and then position the new hive in exactly the same spot as where the ruchette had been. The ruchette seemed disappointingly light, but there were plenty of bees and evidence of honey making.

Lend Me Your Comb

Lend Me Your Comb

The frames were gently transferred, one by one, from the ruchette to the fabulous new hive, and JP left a house-warming present of some sugar solution in the roof space.

This process was repeated for the second ruchette, which was even lighter than the first. Lets hope to Get Back to warmer, dryer times so that these colonies can become truly established. Here Comes the Sun?

Honey (that's what I want)

Honey (that’s what I want)

Ain't She Sweet

Ain’t She Sweet

Let It Bee

Let It Bee

Hello, Goodbye 🙂