7. Vespula germanica.
Saturday 28th July 2007. Today I
set out for the gig commendably early. It was a bright sunny day (one of very
few we have had this disastrous summer), and the camera was taken along, in
order to pleasantly pass the spare time after arriving at the venue, by
inspecting the area for unusual wild plants & flowers.
When I say unusual, I mean unusual to me; for I can
only name about 20 or 30 wild plants, whereas there are many hundreds native
even to these modest islands. Iím still completely hopeless with trees, for
As I get older, it increasingly seems to me really
necessary to learn about & know what these things are that surround us in
the natural environment with which we are supposed to be in harmony. Before we
completely bugger it - and them - up. Though itís perfectly true, that we would
have to exert ourselves as never before, to get rid of wasps & thistles!
Above all, I took the camera to the gig with me
because last Tuesday, when I cycled along the canal into Birmingham, a wild plant that was new to me was noticed. I
examined it carefully & remembered its most salient characteristics, so
that I could look it up when I got back home. While looking in the reference
book, it suddenly occurred to me that while examining that wild plant, I had
had, all the time, in my back-pack, a 6 Mega-pixel digital camera. Science has
laboured long and hard to bring things like 6 Mega-pixel digital cameras into
existence (even if the driving force behind such research is usually to kill
human beings more efficiently), so it seemed rather obvious to take the camera
with me more often to aid the identification of wild plants &c. And as I am even worse at identifying thistles than treesÖ (oh: by the way, I almost forgot to say, the plant by the
canal was the Pale Toadflax, Linaria repens.) Anway, that is how we came to be photographing thistles. We would
no longer have to remember what they
looked like, but could actually see
an image of them to compare with those in our reference books.
The trouble was, you see, that there was a stiff
breeze at the time, and these thistles were at least a metre tall, so they were
blowing around quite a bit. Then the wasp settled, but I made a few shots, and
the one above turned out OK. It was, I think, relatively large as wasps go: a
maximum of 19mm is a figure which Google provides. A week ago I saw another
such large wasp, and it comes to mind that perhaps this very cold and
exceptionally wet July we are having, may have something to do with it? Fewer
wasps, but larger, maybe? Still, the thistle was easy enough: it can only be
the Creeping Thistle, Circium arvense.
added 13th August 2007. The
weather had nothing to do with the size of this wasp. It was not a very big Vespula vulgaris, the common wasp, as I supposed. It was
instead a fairly normal sized Vespula germanica, a European
species which is gradually becoming more common in the British
Isles than it used to be. Germanica is much
larger than vulgaris, and besides the size, the easiest diagnostic feature is its black
antennae. Those of vulgaris are apparently greyish in colour. There is in fact a nest of Vespula vulgaris in the roof of my kitchen at the moment,
but I do not intend to disturb it just in order to check the exact colour of
to Diary of a Musician.