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Dead bodies are everywhere

This week: The biggest in Europe; Dead bodies are everywhere; Arachnids on patrol;

Rain at sunset
Rain at sunset

There is a clear blue sky this afternoon, with not a cloud in sight. The sun is strong, although the temperature is still only just above 27ºC.

A warm, gusty wind is blowing and rustling the leaves on the trees, whilst a pair of Swallows are chortling away, sitting on the electric wire which runs close to my study window.

I have put the covers onto the solar water heater tubes this week because for the first time this year the temperature/pressure safety valve has been lifting as the water temperature reached 95ºC.

At the same time, the release of our rock-hard water, which then evaporates means that the remaining calcium carbonate blocks the valve.

Although I removed the valve and cleaned it, after 8 years of use, the valve needs replacing so I have ordered a new one.

We have had rain a couple of times this week. The result of the combination of rain, sun and warmth, is the continued growth of weeds.

There are some pretty weeds, but most are just grasses and thistles – nature’s born survivors. They do of course provide food for insects and nectar for butterflies, but I just wish there were not so many.

Rain at sunset on Thursday with a clear sky to the west meant that there was the most spectacular sunset.

As well as a low, bright sun shining through the veils of wind driven rain turning the sky shades of pink, yellow and orange, in the opposite direction there was a double rainbow.

Rainbow from my entrance
Rainbow from my entrance at sunset

Maintenance jobs continue, with removing rust and repainting chrome stands continuing. There are always maintenance jobs to be done around a home.

The advantage of warm sunshine is that I can undercoat, rustproof and paint things, giving three full coats, easily in a single day.

It is also very pleasant working outside in the courtyard.

The biggest in Europe

As the days heat up and my soils dry, I have started to irrigate the fruit trees I have most recently planted.

It takes two or three years for a tree to establish a root system, especially a long tap root, to reach moisture and not need additional water in summer.

That said, in previous years I have had to irrigate in May, so beginning in late June is not too bad.

When I was watering the Pistachio trees I planted last year, I saw a “Colin”.

Colin the Caterpillar
Colin the Caterpillar

Colin is very well known in the UK and enjoyed by many.

My “Colin’s” – there are three of them – are around six centimetres long, but are inedible.

Colin № 1
Colin № 1

This is the caterpillar of the Saturnia pyri, the Giant Peacock moth.

Colin in closeup
Colin № 2 in closeup – a beautiful caterpillar

In previous years I have found the large moths are around my home, but I have not seen a single one this year. They are the size of my palm.

Giant Peacock Moth
Giant Peacock Moth

This striking moth is the largest in Europe. So at least they are still around, having laid eggs on my young trees this spring.

The Giant Peacock moth can be found across the Mediterranean basin.

Peacock Moth distribution
Giant Peacock Moth distribution

With a voracious appetite, they eat a lot of leaves. However I am prepared to lose leaves on my trees, to ensure that these beautiful moths continue to live and reproduce around my home.

Dead bodies are everywhere

My desk isn’t always the tidiest of spaces, but then a “tidy desk is the sign of an unsound mind”, or so I have always been told.

However when I looked at a piece of paper this week, I was surprised to see there were dead bodies lying everywhere.

A little closer examination of the desk turned up more bodies.

Dead bodies are everywhere
Dead bodies are everywhere

They are the result of judicial use of my insectocutor. This is a battery operated device for mosquitoes.

I have mosquito nets on all the doors and windows, however I discovered that it is the felines which are bringing them in.

The mosquitos are not bothered about the source of their blood meal, any mammal will do, and are attached when the feline comes through the cat flap. They then fly off.

I have got quite good with the insectocutor, but I hadn’t realised that after being dispatched to their next life, the bodies fall out onto my desk.

We have a number of different types. Some are large, 10 mm in length, others are tiny with a high pitched whine as they fly. Only the biting females make any noise.

The worst are the Asian Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus, an invasive species which is now found across much of Eurasia.

The Tiger Mosquito location map - BBC
The Tiger Mosquito location map – BBC

These little monsters bite through clothing, bite at all times of the day and night and are the vector for a number of diseases, such as Dengue Fever and Zika Virus. Both are now found in the EU.

The black and white stripes on the Tiger Mosquito (why didn’t they call it a Zebra mosquito?) make it east to identify.

Tiger mosquito - small, but a painful bite
Tiger mosquito – small, but a painful bite

A mosquito only needs a teaspoon size amount of water to lay its eggs in. With our wet winter and spring this year, little spots of water abound and every one is a potential breeding ground.

Arachnids on patrol

As the northern Summer Solstice approaches, it is fully light now by 04:15. Together with the cool air at that time, it is absolutely the best time of day to be out an about.

As I was walking along the old donkey track, I was struck by how many spiders webs were getting in my face. I had a stick with me and I was using it to break the long lines which crossed the path.

That is until I came to an area where the Maquis meets and is encroaching on the path.

The Maquis and path meet
The Maquis and path meet

As I stopped to take a photo of the path, the low angle of the sun illuminated a completely circular web in front of me.

The spider was in the centre and I took a few moments to admire the geometric perfection of the web.

Geometric perfection of a spiders web
Geometric perfection of a spiders web

The individual strands were shimmering like silver threads.

At that point, I decided not to break through and continue my walk, but to leave the web and the spider alone, to catch whatever prey was flying along the path.

Heading off in the opposite direction, I was joined by one of my felines.

Although the grasses on the path are now starting to die back, as they do every year, the path has become overgrown.

Usually there are a few people who travel along these green lanes, but very clearly, no one has been through the paths near my home for quite some time.

There are not as many visitors on the island as would be usual for this time of year. After the €uro was introduced last year, prices rose and inflation has kept the prices rising.

Croatia was once known as somewhere you could go for a cheap holiday. Now prices are about the same as many other destinations around the Mediterranean.

This of course mans that some would-be visitors just think it is no longer good value and they go somewhere else.

Continuing along the lane I was confronted by another complete spiders web, stretched across the path.

This time, almost at head height was a huge spider along with a Green Rose Chafer which had just become caught.

Large spider in the centre of its web
Large spider in the centre of its web

I watched for as few moments as the 3cm long spider embalmed its prey in thread, then once again left it undisturbed, coming back home a different way.

Spiders are an essential part of the ecosystem, but not only that, the house spiders I have in my home help keep the insects which find their way inside, in check too.

As always, I believe in “Live and let live”…. NCG