The daffodil bud from my last bulletin has only opened now, but crocuses have risen above ground, and I have also found the fleshy leaves of tulips! However, these flowers all appeared last year around this time, or even a little later, and we still got some very heavy snow and cold conditions later in the year, in March.
Before things got too interesting this spring I wanted to do something about False Widow spiders. According to this January’s issue of the BBC Wildlife Magazine there is a wave of terror in England, particularly around London, caused by the presence of these venomous spiders. And, more worryingly, pesticides are being used in an ad hoc way to placate public fear, and pesticides are far more dangerous than any False Widows. Two species of False Widow spider are venomous and can bite people, but they are not aggressive, and to prove this I have made a video in which I handle a good size Noble False Widow spider, with no ill-effects. Here is that video:
Last year we had quite a mild December, and a good cold January, with the first daffodils blooming by the end of January – and then a brutally cold spring with plenty of snow and ice. What does this year have in store for us?
Friday night, (the 21st December) was the Winter Solstice. It occurred at exactly 10.23 pm, so the following morning (Saturday 22nd) was in fact the closest to the event. This marks the start of Astronomical Winter, which in many cases is the true winter, although in Ireland 1st December is usually considered the first day of winter by meteorologists.
Incredibly, yesterday I found daffodils were not only up, but some had flower buds! How long will it take for them to bloom? We’ll have to wait and see, but this December is certainly a little bit warm:
Incredibly, I also found Primroses in full bloom! It is extremely early for them, although they are often earlier bloomers than others:
It has been the most protracted cold spring in living memory, and as a result butterflies have been extremely slow to appear, as they need 15° Celsius in which to fly, and it was much less than that up until last week. In fact, we had daytime temperatures as low as 6° Celsius! But this week temperatures leaped up to what would be normal for this time of year, and even above that, and suddenly butterflies and spring moths were appearing as if by magic. Here is one which I was very surprised to see, the Comma (Polygonia c-album):
Most surprising of all has been the numbers of Peacock butterflies (Inachis io) which have appeared in only the last three days. They are big and bold wine red butterflies with dramatic eye-spots:
Here’s a male Orange-tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) which had hatched out from a chrysalis,perched on some garden netting and waiting for its wings to expand and stiffen. This one is a male, as you can tell from the orange tips visible at the top of its fore-wings:
The butterflies of spring are here, but that’s not all – so too are the moths…