In 1885 a Vincent M. Holt wrote a book called ‘Why not eat insects?’
In the 1980s Shell and Bayer started work on the neonicotinoid family of pesticides.
So in the space of 100 years we’ve gone from thinking about eating insects to total eradication – humans are not quite sure what to do with them.
This has been brought to my mind after seeing a couple of insect ‘events’ – Honey Bees massing on the outside of their hive and ants running wildly outside their nest entrance - both provoked different responses from people. The Bees were much admired by the viewers (if a little concerned) whereas the ants had boiling water poured over them!
So what were these two species doing to draw such attention? In brief they were both in the process of forming new colonies.
Queen Bees leaving their original hive to form a new colony get a protective covering swarm of worker bees to guard her, often made up of many thousands of individuals. Funnily enough these swarms although they look scary are in fact completely benign which is why some people are able to wear them as beards – slightly bizarre!
So how about the poor ants running madly in circles getting boiling water poured over them? The answer is protecting the launch pad of the colonies’ newly hatched winged virgin princess and princes leaving the nest to fly high in the sky to mate. The males die soon after whilst the females (now queens) drop their wings and search out a suitable site to find their new colony. Sadly people only notice this activity and not the quiet lives they usually live, and because we don’t like insects that swarm, people tend to ‘go for the gun’.
So what do we do in the Skip garden? Certainly we love our Bees especially now our hive is back and we grow as many nectar rich flowers for them as possible. Ants, for gardeners, are a little more problematic as one of their main activities seems to be farming greenflies and blackflies for their honeydew – at the cost of our broad beans mostly! But generally the news for insects is poor – a terrible drop in the numbers of butterflies and other ‘useful’ insects.
So generally I cast a benign eye over the Large White butterfly caterpillars munching their way through our Cavolo Nero cabbages safe in the knowledge that the cavolo nero will regrow as soon as they drop off to pupate. In gardening, as in life, you sometimes have to see the bigger picture.
Happy planting and continue watering – before the plants become ‘crispy!