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November 2021

Great Hockham Gardening Club Diary - November

For our October meeting we welcomed back Dr. Ian Bedford. On his last visit he enlightened us about the problems there might in a world without wasps. On this occasion he proposed whether we should ‘Cohabit, Control or Preserve’ the many other little visitors attracted to our gardens.

He set the scene by pointing out how successful insects have been by the fact that they have inhabited the Earth for some 400 million years. Comparison of some species found today with some of those preserved in amber from millions of years ago show little change in their morphology. That they have been so little changed over time is an indication of how good the original design was. In other words, with regard to their lifestyle, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Indeed, it has been said that if there were to be an apocalyptic catastrophe, insects would be the ones to make it through. 

Looking at insects from the gardener’s point of view the main point that Ian wanted to make was that just because you see a bug, is that a problem? Before taking any action, you should ask yourself a number of questions. Is the bug you find actually the one causing the damage? Is the bug you find in the process of eating the one causing the damage? If there is damage to a crop, is it old or new? You may be spraying harmful chemicals into the environment trying to kill something that had moved on days ago. If you can’t find what’s causing the problem, perhaps the pest is nocturnal. Before spraying, can the culprit actually be found and removed by hand? Is the damage so minor that you can live with it rather than use chemicals?

In all, the presence of a great many insects is almost certainly a good thing; you might be eradicating something that was not a pest or might even be of benefit. The classic example of this is the ladybird: we all recognise them and know they eat harmful insects like lacewings. Their larvae also eat pests, but their appearance is quite hideous and somewhat less known and might be mistaken for something harmful. All in all it was a very enjoyable and enlightening afternoon.

Back in the summer, when we first thought about moving house, one regret was that all the crops we had so carefully planted would be left for the new owners. No need to worry; the thing has been going for so long that all is now safely gathered in. But at last it will all soon come to pass. It’s strange feeling going around doing the seasonal chores knowing that you will be doing it for the last time – except grass. Have I ever mentioned grass? It’s the one thing you never know whether it’s the last cut of the year until you realise it no longer seems to be growing.

However, in-between the mayhem I did manage to get away for a while; I went to see an old acquaintance, a very old acquaintance. It was only by chance that I found out he was visiting Norwich when I happened to catch him on television a couple of days previously. I thought it would be wonderful to see him again, as I well remember the last time we met was around 1953. It’s funny how you can remember things you’ve done from half a century ago, but not after a few minutes. I must be going dippy.

As it had been so long I thought I had better bone up on his recent travels. He had been touring Britain, and having already visited Dorchester, Birmingham, Belfast, Glasgow, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cardiff and Rochdale, Norwich was his last stop before returning to London.

I managed to catch up with him just before the end of his 16-week stay during which time he had already been visited by nearly a quarter of a million people. I met him in the cathedral where lots of exited children were having selfies taken with him, so I wasn’t able to have him to myself. As I entered the room where he was holding court, I have to say that he did look a little plastered, but casting that aside, I was amazed to find that the old fossil hadn’t gained a pound, indeed, he looked positively skeletal. Still, like the first time I saur him, about 68 years ago, it was a meeting I will always remember. I’ve just had a thought, isn’t it funny how you can remember things you’ve done from 50 years ago, but not after a few minutes.

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