In this weather, you can’t help feeling sluggish


Now that June has been and gone (thankfully) it is perhaps a good time to look back at this year’s incredible spring and early summer.

After two miserable summers, it looks like we’re heading for a third. Trapping moths, as I do on a weekly basis, is a good way to monitor weather patterns and this has without doubt been the worst year I can remember.

Other moth-ers who have been at the game much longer than me also agree. Cold east winds, wet nights and gales, all detested by flying insects, have been the norm since early April.

You may think that such a dearth of flying insects is no bad thing, but moths, like day-flying insects such as bees and hoverflies, are important pollinators of many essential plants.

Ask anyone with apple or pear trees what this year’s crop is like and most will confirm that there will be virtually no fruit this year, thanks to a combination of frost and a lack of insects while the trees were in blossom.

Recent warmer weather combined with the wet conditions has created a perfect environment for two of our least welcome pests – midges and slugs. I had to abandon an evening in the garden at dusk last week when hordes of minute midges descended, fully armed and dangerous. I am not normally troubled by them where I live, but even in town they were too much to endure.

Gardeners will confirm that the slug menace is particularly bad this year. Bedding plants such as marigolds are a favourite target and whole trays have been felled in one night by these slimy sleazeballs. Not all slugs are to blame, however. Some, such as the black slug (Arion ater) get blamed for a lot of carnage in the garden, but it is usually the smaller species which do the most damage.

The black slug prefers a diet of rotting vegetation, fungi, manure, and even the odd decomposing dead animal.

The slug has quite a prominent hole on the right side of its body which is called a pneumostome through which it breathes. It also has two sets of tentacles on its head. The larger, upper set are optical tentacles that are sensitive to light, but they cannot differentiate colours.

The smaller, lower tentacles are used for smell and both sets can be retracted when the slug is disturbed or danger threatens. When disturbed, the black slug contracts itself into a slimy hemispherical hump, making itself difficult to be pecked up by a hungry bird. It sometimes rocks from side to side; thought to be an attempt to confuse its predator.

At least so far, we have been spared the company of one other annoying pest – the wasp. Other than a few early queens I have seen virtually none recently.

Every cloud has a silver lining, I suppose!