I’ve been trying to get around to all those gardening tasks that lurk, making you feel guilty. Re-potting plants, clearing pots of dead plants, sweeping up the debris produced by the above. I’ve not had much luck (skill!) at growing basil in the past, though I have since learnt that it is almost certainly that I tend to over water it. Armed with my new knowledge, and having managed to protect a surprising number of seedlings from snail attack, I had high hopes of a good harvest this year. Plenty of basil to go with the plentiful tomatoes, and enough over for pesto. So I have been very disappointed to see my purple basil just sit there, in pots, not growing. At all. For weeks. Then I noticed roots coming out of the bottom of the pots, so I thought perhaps a new home would help. When I knocked the first plant out of its pot I was greeted by this:
Those of you knowledgeable about wildlife will already know what I had found. Me, I was confused. How had leaves become buried in my basil pots? I was even more confused when I started pulling them out.
Eight little packages. Some were falling apart, others still displayed the perfect shape of a hand rolled cigar, though somewhat smaller.
As it that wasn’t enough, they had perfectly cut lids sealing the contents. There is no way I could create something so neat and perfect.
A close look at the insides of the ones that had started falling apart revealed what looked at first glance just like one of those horrid tiny slugs that wreak such havoc. I confess to entertaining the idea, just for a millisecond, that slugs had hitherto unsuspected dexterity, though using what, I didn’t know… OK, so clearly larvae of some sort – but of what? And what should I do with what I had found?
I googled something like “small leaf packages buried in compost” and quickly came to the conclusion that I had found the nests of leafcutter bees. I’d seen them flying around the garden, carrying small bits of leaf – and I’d certainly seen the pieces cut out from leaves. I found a website with good pictures, and of course was immediately overcome by guilt. The female leafcutter builds up to ten of these little immaculate tube nests in hollow places, sometimes in the ground, sometimes dead plant stalks, in this case, evidently my basil pots. Each one takes her between 6 and 8 hours to complete, each with a supply of nectar and pollen, and of course an egg. Then she dies. The contents of my basil pot represent the life’s work of one of these hard-working little pollinators. My guilt wasn’t helped much by the appearance of a leafcutter – without leaf – on the table that still held the unburied nests.
TNG found my paroxysms of guilt highly amusing, but I buried the little packages – the ones that were still sealed anyway – in a pot of compost in a corner of the garden that won’t be disturbed. Perhaps some of them will make it, and at least I’ve learnt something new.