Life in a Dol house 
2017 - Week 16

Can you spot the Nymphs?

I am trying something different this week. 

The photographs in this Immersive Edition are higher quality images. The regular email edition has low resolution images, to cater for small screen and slow internet connections.  Usually I use the same images in the blog, but this week I have used 800 x 600 dpi images instead.  

As always, any comments will be welcomed.

The much needed rain has arrived in two waves this week. 

The first front on Sunday dropped 9mm (⅓ inch) in a steady soaking rain with a second front on Tuesday bringing a very welcome 55mm bringing it to a total of 64mm (2½ inches) of rain for the week. 

After an extremely dry winter when we have had just a third of the normal rainfall, this weeks bonus is useful but is only a temporary fix. By Friday, my orchards are already starting to dry out again. 

It has softened the baked hard surface, sufficient for me to spend three days hoeing to break up the hard pan and cut the heads of a lot of the annual weeds. The two small orchards are relatively weed free now. I just need to keep them that way for the rest of the year! 

This link will open a spherical photograph of the Citrus orchard.

I have also found that there have been more casualties from the cold weather we had in January. 

I had been able to grow a Lantana camara from seed. All the top growth has died and when I cut it right back, there are no shoots coming from the base. I suspect it was too young to survive the winter. Older and well established shrubs that neighbours have, are sprouting from the base, even though all the top branches were killed. 

I have also lost six Passion Flower plants. I had four different types and every one has died. There are more, a big spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum, which was outside the kitchen window has gone, as has a Century Plant, Agave americana and an Aloe Vera which I brought with me as tiny offshoots. 

There may well be more, but these are the ones I recognise as being missing, to be added to the list of 10 out of 15 citrus trees. I was able to plant before the rains came, so that tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and a number of seeds were already in the ground ready and received a good watering. 

The propagator in the greenhouse has been emptied, with various herbs being planted in the new herb bed, alongside the citrus orchard. My desire is to have an A to Z of herbs, from Angelica to Zeodary. The only problem is that so far, I can't get my Angelica seeds to germinate and having a B to Z of herbs, starting with Borrage, which is growing, just doesn't quite sound the same.

Whilst pulling some weeds out from the corner of one of the weed suppressing mulch mats in the orchard, a tiny movement caught my eye. 

Looking closer I could see there were several Praying Mantis nymphs, scuttling away. They are tiny, about the size of a barley kernel and almost translucent. I presume they have just hatched.

Mantis are the most popular of all insects kept as pets, even though their life cycle is a year or less. Eggs laid in the autumn over winter and then as the days lengthen and warm, the tiny nymphs hatch. They will molt their exoskeleton between five and ten times before they reach the adult size.

I have only seen brown and green Mantis here in Dol, although there are 2,500 members of the species which inhabit tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world. 

It is generally November when I find the adults and each year pick one or two up and put them in the greenhouse. 

Mantis are voracious general predators, eating almost anything smaller than themselves, even their own kind. They do not discriminate and will eat both beneficial insects and pests. I always look closely when I am working in the garden and orchards, to try and make sure that I do not inadvertently kill beneficial insects, even those as tiny as these little nymphs. 

There is an informative PREZI presentation on the life cycle at this link.

Although I finished the weeding in the Drupe orchard, I have left a patch of weeds and grasses for a similar reason. 

There are some weeds which can be pulled out easily by hand because they have only the smallest of surface roots, then there are those deep rooted monsters, which even when you dig them out, a bit of the long tap root is left, enabling them to grow again, much like the many headed Greek Hydra. So I tend to do some hand weeding before using the Dutch Hoe. 

On a warm sunny morning this week, I had just started to identify which weeds were which, when I again noticed some movement. This time it was several tiny Katydid nymphs. Although I have them in the long and grassy Top Orchard, these are the first I have seen in this orchard. 

Kneeling down I could count at least three. I collected my DSLR camera with a closeup lens, together with some rice and as gently as I could, I put a grain of rice on each of the big leaves.

The Katydid of course moved each time and I could not persuade even one of them to go and sit next to a grain of rice. 

This photograph shows some of the weeds - well OK, a lot of weeds - a grain of rice on a leaf for scale and one of the nymphs, circled. But you have to get really close to see these bright green, tiny little insects.

They merge completely with the bright green spring growth of the weeds. So I have left this half metre square patch "au natural" and hope it provides enough cover and food for them to grow into adults. It is too soon to tell which species of Katydid they are.

It is easy to distinguish between a katydid and a grasshopper. The katydid's have extremely long antenna and round eyes. I have lots of grasshoppers too, like this Common Field Grasshopper, Chorthippus brunneus, which is perfectly camouflaged.

At the other end of the size scale is an Egyptian Grasshopper, Anacridium aegyptium, enjoying the warmth of the sun on the raspberries.

I have left a Broccoli plant as food for insects, and this week I saw that there were large numbers of the Fire Bug, Eurydema dominulus.

This is another of those pretty coloured bugs, which do not seem to do a great deal of harm, so I let them live in peace.

As we move into summer, the last of the bulbs have come into bloom. These Giant Allium, Allium giganteum, look especially nice next to the Arbour.

I have continued working on the wiring in the guest bedroom as well this week, bringing in the weather camera feed, together with the antenna cables for the weather station sensors. 

I needed to complete this before being able to install the ceiling insulation, because the conduit will run between layers of insulation. Getting all the cables into the wall will be the next challenge. 

Because of its old lath and plaster construction, the depth of the void is quite shallow and I need to get six cables inside. 

Squeezing a quart into a pint pot comes to mind....