It was with sinking heart that Mud realised that our lovely ornamental plants were once again under attack by Vine Weevils! The back end of last week, he had noticed that some of our beautiful plants were looking more than a little sick and, with last years carnage fresh in his mind, he literally began delving into the mystery – or rather the compost of the affected plants.
One by one he carefully examined the compost at the base of each of the plants and as each discovery caused ever increasingly loud and expressive expletives, I knew with certainty and without Mud actually having to say anything that not only was the problem extensive, it was bordering on epidemic.
There is something therapeutic at the best of times about sifting through compost with bare hands, and the therapeutic properties increase exponentially when the whole reason for doing so, is to fish out root destroying grubs, put them in a shallow plant pot saucer and leave the saucer out for the birds. The only issue this year though was that the birds seemed less than eager to accept our offerings.
Last year, one of the Robins had actually sat a foot or so away from us, helping itself to grubs even before we had placed the saucer on the lawn, whilst the Blackbird had darted in and snatched a mouthful of grubs between the Robins’ visits. The Robin was strongly of the opinion that the grubs had been placed in the saucer purely for its’ benefit and was extremely vociferous in its’ efforts to dissuade the other birds from partaking of the feast. However, thinking back, we believe the birds were already nesting and raising young at this time, something we haven’t seen much evidence off so far this season and we have been left wondering if the cold snap of the last week or so, killed off many of the first broods which means that parent birds don’t have young to feed at the moment/are sitting on eggs.
Be that as it may, three to four hundred grubs have been put out and subsequently vanished, over the last couple of days and whilst we’ve seen one or two bird visits, there have not been sufficient to explain the disappearance of this many grubs. So the question remained …… where have all the grubs gone?
Well it seems Mud has stumbled upon the answer to this mystery whilst watering the plants this evening. Ants! Dozens and dozens of Ants!
It would appear that there is a large and thriving ants nest under the hedge and they have been more than happy to help themselves to the creamy white delicacies that we’ve put out for them. As Mud watered, he spotted a line of grubs moving along and then disappearing into the ground in front of the hedge. Intrigued and wondering how they were managing to ‘get out of’ the saucer and move along the lawn, he had a closer look and was fascinated to see that ants were climbing into the saucer and either cutting the heads off the grubs to carry them back to the nest, or carrying them whole. Two or three ants per grub, manhandling them back to the entrance of and then disappearing into the depths of what must be an enormous nest. I shudder to think but at least we now know that all we have to do is put any infected plant pots in that area of the lawn for a few days and let the ants do the hard work!