My mother taught me to peel back the cases when I was little in our garden near Liverpool. I was enchanted then and am enchanted still. I want the honesty to grow everywhere in the garden, but it will only flourish in the cracks between the paving stones that it finds for its self.
While looking for shade on a sunny day, my eye was caught by a strange clay pot opening on the underside of the kitchen window. It wasnt there before. Made of perfect solid clay with a delicate circular mouth, the colour exactly the same as the painted wall .
I waited. Nothing happened. It was hot and very Adlestrop.
The next day the pot has changed shape some how and then there was a huge, elegantly waisted wasp at the mouth of the pot. The wasp carried a ball of mud and as I watched it carefully rolled it into the opening and sealed up the whole.
The wasp returned with damp clay and delicately plastered, layer, by thin layer of mud over the pot until eventually the pot had been subsumed into an unnoticeable bump innocuous under the window ledge.
A guide book helped me identify the workman as a potter wasp Delta unguiculatum……..”…
The pot is home for its single egg which is suspended from a thread inside the pot. The wasp provisions its young with a caterpillar, which the adult has paralysed with poison. The caterpillar is fed into the mouth of the pot to stay fresh until the egg hatches and the the grub falls from its thread onto the caterpillar, which it then devours. When the grub reaches maturity, the new wasp breaks out of its pottery nursery and feeds on nectar from flowers outside.
The shape of the nest has been said to inspire humans to make their first clay pots.
We have used pots to store grain and seeds for millennia. The wasp worked it out first and used them to store food for its young and to house them as they grew.
It may seem as if nothing is happening on a hot day, but all of life and human history is carefully building, mud mouthful by mud mouthful under the kitchen window.
I was deadheading purple toadflax flowers to encourage them to keep flowering all summer. Their long thin, needle like flowers spike up through the ripening garden for months and I was keen to stop them setting seed too soon. As I carried back some snapped seed stems , I noticed a bracelet of purple petals that was definitely not a flower.
On closer inspection I realised that it was a delicate dome of spiders web and fallen petals fused to the stem. On turning over the stem, I saw a very small white and black spider hiding in the middle of the dome. The spider was waiting under its improbable sombrero of petals for some unsuspecting ant or ladybird to devour .The camouflage of petals was the soft home of a killer with a delicate and dainty sense of home decor!
An enormous grasshopper flew into the house and took a great bite out of my spider plant.
It was so heavy it toppled the plant pot and the huge and the unearthly head reminded me of the terrifying creatures found by Professor Quatermass in the London Underground . The 1950s classic TV series has haunted me as the ancient swarm leapt through the impossible memory of susceptible humans .
Here was the same head, jade green, monumental, implacably other regarding me over the washing up bowl.
It seems we are all just one jump away from Quatermass’ pit!