Saturday, 13 June 2015

Getting to know a new patch

I've not yet had the chance to get out since coming back from Turkey, but I am going back to the archaeological dig in North Wiltshire tomorrow for the final time. The reason I bring this up, is that I find encounters with the natural environment pop up in the funniest places.

For example, when digging down, down, down in a trench, we were exposing a lot of bare earth, leaving it to bake in the summer sun. This proved to be excellent habitat for some solitary bees, although, as we shared the trench with them for much of the day, we were able to observe they were not entirely solitary.

I'm no bee expert, and with 30 000 bee species worldwide how can anyone hope to be, so I'm not sure what species they are (they seemed different to the masonry bees commonly seen nesting in walls of buildings). However, each bee seemed to share an entrance to a particular burrow (there were several in the wall of the trench), going to and fro collecting pollen to feed their grubs inside. This sort of communal living - sharing a common burrow, but not working towards furthering the survival of other's young - is a fascinating halfway-house on the evolutionary scale towards full social living, such as in the honey bee or bumblebee.

Hopefully, by the time we have finished excavating, the bees will have raised their young and we will be able to fill in the area without any impacts on them. But so interesting and unexpected to find this whilst excavating a 12th century chapel in someone's front garden!

Next weekend, I simply MUST get out on the Down - now I have even more of an incentive, as I have just secured a promotion as a team leader in Dorset, so need to get out and get to know that patch more. Don't worry though, the surrounds of Salisbury will still be my main love and focus of this blog!

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