Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Different creatures have different strategies for coping with the winter.  Honeybees build up their stores of honey to see them through, we rely on our community and the wider global market, and wasps (and bumble bees) put all their eggs in the one basket.

Wasps and bumble bees let all their hard working daughters and sons die off, leaving only a small amount of queens at the end of the autumn.  These queens find warm areas to hide themselves away over the cold winter months.  They find south facing hedges, or living room curtains in which to fall asleep into and dream of the summer.

When spring comes they fight for survival.  They struggle to establish a small hive of daughters.  If all goes well for them their daughters take over the struggle and leave the queen in the comfort of the hive.  So, if you see an unusually large wasp at this time of year, then kill it.  Make it your mission to ensure it is dead and gone.  Doing so condemns thousands of wasps to death; the thousands of potential eggs that she carries inside herself.  And if you see a larger than normal bumble bee at this time of year then you must do the opposite.  Ensure that it is unharmed and that she is safe in the world as the bumble bee is not a pest.  The bumble bee is being persecuted by our pesticides and herbicides.

Today I had a quick look at the bee hives and spotted a very large wasp lying dead at the entrance to one of the hives.  She was a queen who must have been desperate for food.  Desperate to feed her young babies in this fluctuating fickle spring.  She must have been insane too.  What was she thinking when she tried to enter a honeybee hive packed with a couple of thousand venomous honeybees.  Whatever she thought, I was proud of the bees.

It has been over a year and a half since we began our chicken experiment.  It has been a year and a half since we found ourselves needing to buy eggs.  There have been a few times when we came close to needing to, times when we had given away surplus to friends and family and then needed some to make cheesecakes and such things.  So far the hens have always seemed to supply our demand, until now.

A couple of them have gone off lay due to them going through moulting.  It is natural, and they should start to lay again in a couple of weeks, but this is not why we needed to buy eggs.  We bought half a dozen a certain amount of eggs because our hens have no cockerel.  No cockerel means no possibility of them ever producing little chicks.  So, for the next phase of our chicken experiment we have purchased half a dozen a certain amount of fertile eggs which were just posted to us.

Our hens are hybrids and are in no way likely to go broody and raise the hatch or raise the chicks themselves.  Instead, we have opted for an incubator.  If all goes well it means we will be able to watch them hatch in about twenty one days.

I could not resist telling my students the good news and they all seemed interested in the idea of little fluffy Easter chicks.  That is, until I told them we were raising them with the main intention of eating* them.  They did not like that at all.  I assured them that I would not eat them while they were fluffy and cute, but would instead wait until they were older and uglier.  That did not help.

Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.


*probably only the cockerels