Thursday, 24 October 2013

Ivy in autumn

I got up rather late this morning: as a result felt rather grumpy and guilty, especially as the sky was clear and bright.

I pottered down to the end of the garden, and while peering into the murky depths of my pond-in-progress was startled by a concert of buzzing. I was astonished to see the ivy covered in insects: honeybees, hover-flies, wasps, a red admiral butterfly, one enormous bumble bee, and two blue bottles. Apart from the butterfly, which was adopting a leisurely approach, they were all furiously at work, gathering nectar as if there were no tomorrow (which, given the time of year and the weather forecast, they were probably correct about).

The sense of fragile but exuberant aliveness was compelling. It was wonderful to be there. The great thing about insects (unlike, say, birds) is that they don’t generally mind how close you get when they are busy, so I could admire the way they sought out unvisited places and nosed into the tiny, unimpressive flowers. Many of the honeybees had so much pollen on their back legs it was surprising that they could fly at all.

The whole area was suffused with a startling musky smell, which turned out, on examination, to be coming from the ivy itself. It was as though the plant was shouting out, calling the insects with a voice impossible to resist, drawing them to the last source of sustenance before winter closed in.