The small things . . .

I’ve always loved watching BBC Springwatch for all those fluffy fledglings and serious nature reality checks with Chris Packham and his charts. But most years we’re far too busy, heads down on the flower farm, and have little time to settle in an armchair with a cup of tea to watch the plight of the lesser spotted woodpecker.

This year however, events have overtaken me and actually sitting in an armchair is exactly what the doctor ordered. I’ve been off work for six weeks now, first with a vicious dose of Covid which reduced me to a crumpled pile, worrying that my head might explode in the night. Then stupidly, after getting up from my Covid bed, I did that thing where you go back to work even when your body is screaming at you not to. So, I fell off a ladder during a floral arch installation: an accident that is more common amongst florists than we would care to believe. I’m left with a fractured elbow and a nasty concussion. The doctors in A&E all told me to take these injuries pretty seriously. They explained that my brain is like a snow globe — I’ve given it a good thwack and now I must wait until the snow settles.

While I wait for the snow inside my head to resolve, I’m not allowed any screen time. No emails, no sneaky smart phones, no picture research and certainly no Instagram scrolling. But I am allowed Springwatch . . . and that is how I learn about Osmia Bicolar, a tiny solitary bee with some pretty impressive life skills. Filmed by the BBC we watch as the female bee finds an empty snail shell. We then see as she works her way inside the disused snail to lay individual eggs. These she seals into chambers with enough food for each pupa to survive until it needs to leave. She may lay up to five eggs in each shell before she blocks the entrance with tiny pebbles and turns the nursery snail upside down to keep her brood safe.

But the best bit is yet to come: those clever camera crews capture the bee transporting sticks and straw to disguise her snail. The bee looks like a demented witch flying on an impossibly long broomstick, and she does it over and over again until she has made a glorious thatched roof for her snail home. Honestly, BBC Springwatch alone is worth the TV licence fee.

Another Springwatch takeaway, demonstrated with the help of Chris Packham and his graphic boards, was new data from Bristol University into flower-pollinator interaction. Researchers have discovered that scent and colour are not the only signals that flowers emit. It turns out they also invite their pollinator friends with warmth. When viewed through thermal imaging cameras many flowers have very warm centres. Like a heat sink the middle of a fully open flower soaks up the rays of the sun and stores the thermal energy. Bees are attracted to this welcome extra energy boost, and they can see the glowing centres that are invisible to human eyes. And these flowers are often 4 – 5 degrees warmer than other flowers.

I sometimes berate myself that we don’t grow more food on the farm. Flowers can feel a wee bit indulgent, but after watching Springwatch I’m reminded of the value of flowers to our ecosystem. Chris’s boards show clearly that without insects our world would collapse. And insects need diversity. They need stinging nettles and dead wood, and plentiful sources of nectar throughout the year. I’m reminded that we have built a haven for wildlife. Our one hectar of land, that was a blank canvas paddock five years ago, is now a teaming paradise for insects.

The silver lining of being forced to recuperate and having time to just mull things over is that I have been able to enjoy things on a macro level rather than stressing about the bigger picture. Instead of rushing from task to task I have been able to sit and watch life on the farm — life that goes on whether I am here or not; life that has a life of its own. I am proud to have been a part of making this little micro climate.

I’m not recommending anyone throws themselves off a ladder in order to enjoy the smaller things in life. I’m just saying we all need to be reminded of what is under our feet and learn to treasure it.



Thank you for your comments, I hope you get better soon. Having recently retired, the joy found in just having time to watch the smallest insects in my garden is just wonderful. To be recommended.

Emma Jones June 21, 2022

Get well soon my dear Fiona! So good to hear that you’re making the most of really appreciating the smaller things while you recuperate. And thanks for reminding me to enjoy all the beautiful little beasties, too. Bonne récupération!

Hellie June 16, 2022

Leave a comment