Autumn Check on the Marsh

Today, Paul and I took a trip to check on the West Rise Junior School Apiary on Langney Marsh. Breezy but warm, we took the scenic (but buffalo-free) route to the bees, taking in the swans flying overhead, a female kestrel hunting, and some young moorhens preening on a raft of pondweed. We passed what had previously been a scrape – shallow body of water to attract wading birds, which had now completely dried out and looked rather post-apocalyptic with its mussel and clam shells strewn in the cracks.

We weren’t quite sure whether this is intentional or not, but the ground was incredibly dry and the water level of the main lake seemed to have dropped somewhat. The site itself drains the roads and industrial units, so maybe there has been a change in the distribution by the water company or council.

The apiary was also very dry, with the trees looking rather parched, and the smaller willows we had planted clinging on with a couple of leaves present. The more established ones we had put in to provide a windbreak were nicely mulched by the rotting hay bales, and were looking bright and perky.

The bees looked really contented, bringing in lots of different coloured pollens which is always heartening to see, as this is what will sustain the colony as they raise new young in the spring. Orange pollen from the nearby elecampane seemed to be present in large quantities!

We didn’t open the inspection windows as the bees are clearly provisioning their hive and we have no need to disturb them. Once the bees were ticked off the list, we started to explore the grass for wasp spiders. We only found one, but what a beauty:

I was really pleased to see her, although last year there were 2 or 3. The habitat here is absolutely perfect for them, as they eat grasshoppers and like damp, unmanaged grassland. The dry conditions may have affected the spiders, resulting in low numbers. There were very few other webs so perhaps it has not been a good year for our eight-legged friends.

We will check on the site once more before winter.

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