Hazel, willow, beef and storytelling from Bedfordshire

Sawflies munched my hazel

hazel sawfly larvae on hazel leaf

hazel sawfly larvae on hazel leaf

It would be great to have more time to… well for all sorts of things. Spending time with spouse, children and friends comes top even though I know I’m luckier than most in that regard. Playing music, singing, walking, cooking, cycling, reading. That list could be a long and pitiful one so let’s stop there!A couple of weeks ago I had taken a trip to our small wood to ‘think about areas to cut this coming winter’. Actually, my speech marks, meant to suggest an excuse, aren’t really necessary as I did need to start thinking about such things. But still it felt indulgent to be wandering about looking at coppiced hazel and pondering on area and time.I mentioned recently in another post the small pleasure of watching cattle moving into a new field. Looking at coppiced hazel is another. I imagine many people reacting in a faintly guarded way to such a statement; perhaps with a raised eyebrow and a drawn out “right”. I enjoy looking at the hazel I cut several years ago; its vigorous, skyward growth producing masses of lovely long, straight sticks.

Such moments are snatched, but on this occasion the moment stretched as I was diverted by something new. From a distance I noticed a stool of hazel, cut last winter; its stem tips stripped of leaves. My initial dismay became intrigue. I couldn’t see what had caused the damage. Some moments studying the middle of the plant revealed a collection of leaves, all with beautiful and beautifully camouflaged, yellow, black and green caterpillars arranged rather artfully around their edges.

I assumed they had seen me coming and arranged themselves, after a quick discussion, into this rather splendid pattern, to fool me. If so it almost worked. Perhaps they spend the daylight hours like this and feed at night. Certainly for the ten minutes I spent looking at them, there was no movement whatsoever.

Only a few minutes at a PC later revealed their identity. They almost certainly are hazel or birch sawfly larvae Croesus septentrionalis, not caterpillars at all (more than five pairs of pro-legs behind the three pairs of true legs apparently).

Now I can appreciate their beauty and am fascinated by their curious behaviour but of course now I’m fretting that this time next year the whole wood will be stripped by their grandchildren. Let’s hope the birds find them really tasty.

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