Last week I was minding my own business watering the tomatoes in the greenhouse when an extraordinary beast buzzed past me. It must have been nearly 8cm long, including a super impressive ovipositor. It's apparently a Sabre wasp.
Pretty amazing looking.
The natural world in our own gardens can be so exciting and exotic, and we notice - and know - so little about it.
It turns out Sabre wasps aren't super rare, but I'd certainly never seen one before. It's another new species for the garden, which always gives me a thrill. We had Tree bumblebees very early after their appearance from France, ditto Ivy bees. Last year Wool carder bees appeared for the first time.
In the spring we had Bee-flies too - I'd noticed them around locally, but never here. Another bee parasite - Jewel wasps - arrived a couple of years ago. Where there are lots of bumblebees and solitary bees, their parasites will follow.
This summer we have Large skippers; a common butterfly, but another first for the garden. The other day I noticed these two Burnet companions - another new insect for us:
During lockdown we had a visit from a much more exotic looking Jersey tiger.
New hedges and ponds mean we have loads of common pipistrelles now - when we had the old cottage here surveyed 10 years ago the ecologist could find no signs at all of any bats. We never used to have fieldfares in winter or bush crickets in summer either. The ponds and associated plants have brought a whole range of new animals as well as the bats, including grass snakes.
We now have Barn owls and a pair of Mistle thrushes nesting at the bottom of the garden. In the Sabre wasp size category we have gentle Hornets and Giant horntails (one of the species Sabre wasps parasitise) buzzing around.
I'm sure we've had many, many more species arrive that I haven't noticed.
Why Here And Now?
Why have they all started showing up here? It's pretty obvious.
Some of these animals have specific relationships with single plants. Burnet companions need Cocksfoot as a larval foodplant. Wool carder bees like Stachys Byzantina leaves to line their nests. Ivy bees need late flowering plants like... ivy. We have encouraged all these.
Others have less specialised but no less intimate relationships with the flora around them. The parasitic species at a remove; Sabre wasps look for the fallen timber where their larval victims live, for example. Bee parasites show up where there are good bee populations, thriving in the right habitat.
Plant It And They Will Come
We don't own an estate. We have a large garden (around 2 acres), not hundreds of hectares. Even so, we can still make a significant contribution to local biodiversity. If we lived in an urban flat and had a window box we could make a difference.
It's plants which are important, not stuff. As gardeners, we need to think about their selection and management much more carefully than we do.
Why should we? The animals here give me as much pleasure as the plants I grow. It's great to be God.