09 Jul Butterflies and bees
“It’s because it’s so hot”, said my friend as we caught up with life over breakfast the other day. I chose badly. The Greek yogurt with rhubarb and nut crunch fell short of its promise. I coveted her perfectly poached egg atop a daring version of ‘squeak’. Next time.
I was commenting on the number of butterflies in my back garden this year. There are always some, but this year it’s a butterfly bonanza. They love buddleias – I wonder if the big one in the garden a couple of houses down from us is their HQ.
So, the heat suits them. A couple of white ones seemed to be ‘on heat’ this morning. Do butterflies have the hormonal ebb and flow of other species? Or just a penchant for playfulness? These two were fluttering furiously above the Salvia Hot Lips. Hmmm. Choice spot for an intense aerial tango. Maybe it all happens differently in the butterfly universe. I feel loathe to find out lest the charm of this imagined romance is stolen away.
Usually they’re white. Occasionally there are darker ones with tawny shades of brown and orange. They’re more difficult to spot when they land and fold back their wings as they balance briefly on some flower or leaf. The courting couple are creamy white with a single black spot on each wing. Small White, probably. Could be a Large White – I have no idea of proportions. They’ve finished their dance but they’re still around reminding me that I also have very little idea what they do all day, and only the vaguest notion of their life cycle.
Slightly more clued up about the bees with whom they share the garden. They arrived late this year, or so it seemed to me. We were anxious for a while that their absence, after such abundance last year, signalled something to worry about. Something in the big picture of worrisome things. There are enough of those. But this last week or so, as the lavender starts to peak, the bees are back. Different this year. Must be from a different hive. Last year’s were small, compact bodies, hazel-russet colours. This year’s are bigger and in the familiar black and yellow strip, whitish bottoms. They float, hover and wiggle, landing lightly on the lavender so that it bends gently as it surrenders its nectar and smuggles in its pollen. A dozen bees at any one time burrowing away busily. It always amazes me that a fight never breaks out, some clash of antennae to set off a rumpus. Calm, even-tempered bees.
At the butcher’s around the corner they sometimes have little jars of local honey for sale. I suppose there are hives on the allotments on the other side of the railway line.They must know I don’t eat meat by now. Also that I’m not so young, though they always greet me warmly and address me as “young lady”. Not in a patronising way. Just a hint of delicate irony. We’re patrons only of its range of sublime ice cream. I must try the honey next time. I’ve often wondered if I’d find the taste of my back garden infused in one of those jars.