You can bee whatever you want to bee

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Summer looked like it was taking a turn for the better on Saturday, so I took a trip down to Newcastleton, where they were holding their annual Floral Festival.

The fine weather brought out lots of visitors to view the open village gardens and to look at the huge entry of around 50 scarecrows scattered around the streets as part of a new competition. Some were topically hilarious and others were real works of art.

Well done Copshie.

The gardens on show were all free of potato blight, but it was present in the village, according to those I asked. A neighbour of mine in Selkirk has had his crop devastated by this airborne fungus and I know of similar infestations in other towns. It’s just another downside of this horrible wet summer.

Earlier the same day I had a short wander up the riverside near my home and the amount of growth was staggering.

Some plants which normally attain a height of around five feet were like towering triffids at up to seven feet high.

The sun welcomed a good number of ringlet butterflies fluttering amongst the rank grass and I began to take notice of the variety of hoverflies visiting the flower heads of melancholy thistle and valerian.

One in particular I hadn’t seen before was a dead ringer for a bumblebee. In fact that’s what I thought it was until it took flight in typical hoverfly fashion. I took its picture and looked it up later and discovered it to be one called Volucella bombylans.

 This hoverfly is an excellent mimic of a bumblebee and is found throughout most of the UK. There are two main varieties which mimic different species of bumblebee, one with an orange-red tail (V. bombylans) and the other with a white tail (V. plumata).

Its large size, distinctive pattern and plumed antennae make it relatively easy to identify. The female lays its eggs in the nests of bumblebees and wasps where the larvae feed on debris and, occasionally, the bee larvae.

On Sunday, summer returned with a vengeance as I found out while attending the annual Blanket Preaching service on a hillside overlooking St Mary’s Loch.

The hills were shrouded in mist, it was drizzling and the Rev Sam Siroky had to call on all his vocal strength to make himself heard above the howling gale.

However, the excellent afternoon tea in Cappercleuch Hall afterwards provided a fitting reward to those hardy souls who braved the elements.