Big thank you from

Upside down weather makes for unpredictable viewing

by Paul Cormacain

The weather does not seem to know what it should be doing at this time. We had snow in the garden yesterday, very heavy rain, we had high winds, and we had sunshine.

The behaviour of animals and birds, the growth of flowers and trees, is all dictated by the weather along with the in-built clocks that most living things seem to possess.

In the last few days we have seen heavy winds strip away multitudes of leaves, vet we still have multitudes of leaves on the trees.

As I write, we are nearly into November, and trees should have have lost nearly all their leaves by now, yet one particular tree we see regularly looks like it is in the full bloom of mid-summer.

The last wasp we saw was two days ago. The books all say that wasps' life cycle means that there should be none visible now.

Early in the year they tend to spend their time killing insects like aphids and caterpillars. This prey is then fed to wasp larvae, and in turn the larvae produce a sweet saliva which the older wasps eat.

Then in late summer the queen wasp stops laying eggs, and so there is no more saliva for the adults. The adults go on their holidays, do no work, but party all the time.

One of their tricks is to hit fruit trees, apple trees in particular, where they descend on a fruit with broken skin and start devouring it.

With these broken fruit, especially apples that have fallen on a solid surface and are well bruised, fermentation sometimes sets in.

This means that the wasp, usually joined by many other wasps, love the bruised apple, eat their way into the fruit, and get happy with the fermented juice.

But it is a couple of months since I have seen a fermenting apple, and then it had perhaps a dozen wasps inside it.

In the interest of science, I moved the apple, the wasps all staggered out, some flew off, others staggered off on foot, and others just crawled back into the fermenting juice. They sure loved their damaged apples.

All wasps die off in the autumn, excepting the queens, and they fly - around looking for a suitable spot in which to hibernate.

So all the-wasps should be either dead, or in hibernation by now.

An update on wasp sightings - so far this day I have seen one wasp flying around. Weather and built-in clocks are slightly askew!

I have not seen any butterflies of late, but reports are still coming in of butterfly sightings.

Incidentally the autumn report from Butterfly Conservation is now published, and makes interesting reading.

That organisation is holding its Annual General Meeting in the Museum, Stranmillis Road, on Wednesday 13 November, at 7.15.

Why not broaden your interests and go along? Why not introduce the younger generation to a worthwhile pursuit? Why not talk to Adrian Kernohan, Chairperson, on 9335 5565, or Publicity Officer Lilian Carson on 9258 4019?

Back to the seasons - sometimes all four of them in one day. There are still some flowers about and I am sure that in most years these flowers would have been long gone by now.

Even our domesticated flowers are performing late this year. I have been gardens and find that they have flowers in bloom, flowers that should have been long gone.

I wonder are seasonally late flowers and leaves, and late-flying insects, to be the new commonplace thing.

Coming Events

Saturday 2nd November, Sunday 3rd November - Join the crowds going to Castle Espie, make a bird feeder there, make a bird cake, then take home to your garden, details 9187 4146.

On the Saturday, Fermanagh RSPB is going on an outing to Lough Foyle to see ducks, swans, waders, geese. Contact 6632 6654

Wednesday 13 November - Butterfly Conservation is holding its Annual General Meeting in the Ulster Museum at 7.15. New members are always welcome, and you could be opening up new interests for yourself, and why not bring the children?

Saturday 16 November - Tree Planting in Colin Glen Forest Park, a part of the scheme to make our country one of the more afforested, rather than one of the least afforested, lands. Phone 9061 4115, turn up at I lam.

Saturday 23 November - The Reedy Flats Ramble is at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre at Ipm, with Walter Culbert showing the local wild fowl. Details from 3832 2205

Monday 25 November - Lisburn RSPB is holding it's monthly meeting at the Friends' Meeting House, where Don Scott will intrigue with tales of raptors who fly by day and night. Time is 7.30, details from 4062 6125

Wednesday 27 November - Butterfly Conservation will hear about Conserving Rare Butterflies, from Nigel Bourn, and all are welcome. Details from 9258 4019.

Thursday 28 November - Birdwatch morning at Castle Espie, 11.30, more by phoning 9187 4146.

Ulster Star