Jeremy Hobson solves more of your pastoral problems
Put your pastoral problems to our very own man in the country
Is it just in my garden, or are this year’s dandelions twice the size and twice as prolific as normal? Charlie Austin
Ah, now it’s funny you should mention that as I noticed exactly the same thing during the spring and summer months.
As most readers will know, the French often refer to dandelions ( dent-de-lion… lion’s teeth) as ‘ pissenlit’ (literally meaning wet the bed) due to the fact that, when eaten or made into a drink, they are a diuretic. Their leaves though are excellent added to salads – and, of course, dandelion wine is well known as a country wine. In the early part of spring, dandelion flowers are important as a food source for bees when many other plants that provide nectar have yet to flower.
Chicken-keeping readers will no doubt have noticed that their poultry seem to like dandelions. In fact, some breeders feed their flock leaves, either freshly picked or dry. They also say that the roots are a great liver tonic, and dry and grind up the tap roots so as to add the resultant powder to their chicken’s feed during winter.
On a walk around the edge of a local vineyard (the viticulteur has given us permission) I discovered a scrape in the ground and several dead or dying bees. Might the two together be a coincidence or could there be a connection? We wondered if the bees were dying as a result of spraying the vines. Johannes and Anna Janssen
I doubt that there’s any connection between any spraying and the bees you observed. The mention of a scrape in the ground gives a clue. There are certain types of ‘wild’ bees that almost exclusively utilise old mice nests and it’s more than likely that what you witnessed was where a badger had dug out such a place the previous night in search of the nectar collected and stored in the hole (some species of bees do not make honey at all, but merely collect nectar – a tasty snack for badgers).
Upon attempting to find out more on your behalf, a French apiarist of my acquaintance told me that: “When the Dutch greenhouse growers first attempted to introduce nests of the humble, or bumble bees into their commercial greenhouses (for pollination purposes), they made nest boxes (for the bees) but the problem was the lining. The grass lining in mice nests is very special in its consistency. They needed a lot. It took months of development to get a machine to shred the grasses to the same consistency; without it the bees would reject the nest.”
The common dandelion’s seemingly very common these days!
Mr Badger – good at digging!