Grow Greener with Garthdee Field Allotments Association

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News of a Welcome Visitor

Anna (Plot 93) sent these photos of recent sightings on her plot of this Elephant Hawk Moth and caterpillar.

Photo Credit: Anna Fulop
Photo Credit: Anna Fulop

I am aware of one other reported siting of an Elephant Hawk on site, but that goes back many years to 2017. I recall David (Plot 53) was the lucky host that time. (See the related post below.) If any plotter can provide info of other examples we’d love to hear from you.

It’s pleasing to think our efforts to green the site may be providing more habitats for unusual wildlife like the Elephant Hawk Moth.

Here’s what Chat GPT had to say about habitats attractive to them.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Lifecycle of the Elephant Hawk Moth and Its Preferred Habitat

The Elephant Hawk Moth (Deilephila elpenor) is a fascinating and visually striking insect found in various regions across Europe and parts of Asia. Its distinctive appearance, including its large size and vibrant colors, makes it a popular subject for nature enthusiasts and amateur entomologists. In this beginner’s guide, we will explore the lifecycle of the Elephant Hawk Moth and its preferred habitat.

1. Eggs:

The lifecycle of the Elephant Hawk Moth begins with the female laying her small, spherical eggs on the leaves of its host plants. These plants typically include willowherbs (Epilobium species) and bedstraws (Galium species). The eggs are pale green in color and are usually laid in clusters to increase the chances of survival.

2. Larvae (Caterpillars):

After about a week, the eggs hatch, giving rise to the larvae or caterpillar stage of the Elephant Hawk Moth’s lifecycle. The caterpillar is striking in appearance, sporting bright colors like lime green and having eye-catching eye-like markings on its head. It has a horn-like structure on its rear, which lends it the name “hornworm.”

3. Feeding and Growth:

The caterpillars are voracious eaters and immediately begin to feed on the leaves of their host plants. They undergo several stages of molting as they grow in size, shedding their old skin to accommodate their increasing body mass. The caterpillar stage lasts for about 4-5 weeks, during which they can grow up to 8-9 centimeters in length.

4. Pupation:

As the caterpillar reaches its full size, it undergoes pupation, which is the transformation into a pupa or chrysalis. The pupa is usually formed in a protected location away from direct predators and environmental hazards. The Elephant Hawk Moth pupa is reddish-brown and has a smooth texture, blending well with its surroundings.

5. Metamorphosis:

Inside the pupa, a miraculous transformation takes place. The caterpillar’s body undergoes significant changes, breaking down its tissues and reassembling them into the adult moth’s structures. This metamorphosis process generally lasts for about 2-3 weeks.

6. Adult Moth:

Finally, the adult Elephant Hawk Moth emerges from the pupa. At this stage, it becomes active at dusk and during the night, while resting during the day. The Elephant Hawk Moth is a large and impressive moth with a wingspan of about 5-7 centimeters. Its wings are predominantly pink or olive-green, providing excellent camouflage when resting on tree trunks or leaves.

Preferred Habitat:

The Elephant Hawk Moth can be found in a variety of habitats, but it tends to favor areas with plenty of nectar-rich flowers for adult feeding and suitable host plants for caterpillar development. Woodlands, hedgerows, gardens, and meadows are common places to encounter this magnificent moth.

1. Nectar Sources:

Adult Elephant Hawk Moths primarily feed on nectar from a range of flowers, including honeysuckle (Lonicera species), petunias (Petunia species), and jasmine (Jasminum species). Having a variety of these nectar-rich plants in the habitat will attract these moths.

2. Host Plants:

To encourage the presence of Elephant Hawk Moths, it’s crucial to provide suitable host plants for the caterpillars. As mentioned earlier, willowherbs (Epilobium species) and bedstraws (Galium species) are the preferred host plants. Allowing these plants to grow naturally in your garden or maintaining them in the wilder areas nearby can support the moth’s lifecycle.

3. Shelter and Water:

Creating a diverse habitat with vegetation of varying heights and densities will offer shelter to both caterpillars and adult moths. Additionally, a nearby water source like a pond or birdbath will provide the much-needed hydration for these creatures.

By understanding the lifecycle of the Elephant Hawk Moth and its preferred habitat, you can take simple steps to attract and support these beautiful insects in your environment. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, gardener, or just curious about the natural world, observing these moths in their lifecycle can be a rewarding and educational experience.

Fresh Food for Frugal Families

Our Project

In the Fresh Food for Frugal Families Project, local primary pupils will work with volunteers to grow and cook their own vegetables, providing tasty, inexpensive, and healthy meals for themselves and their families. While they do so, they will develop thrifty habits and learn the importance of acting local to protect nature and the environment from Climate Change.

Together we will:

  • Experience the joys of working in teams outdoors in the fresh air
  • Grow and cook food to share with our families and local residents via TAMS
  • Learn how tasty, inexpensive and healthy home-grown food can be
  • Understand why locally grown food is better for our environment
  • explore practical ways of protecting the environment while cutting carbon
  • Learn to feed and conserve the soil to grow healthy disease-free vegetables
  • Create growing spaces safe for all sorts of bugs and beasties
  • Find out how green growing can cut emissions and protect against Climate Change
  • Recycle, repurpose and compost materials to cut down landfill waste.

How the funding will help

The Just Transition funding will allow us to enhance the experiences we offer our volunteers and school visitors by providing equipment to cut our carbon emissions and two outdoor learning spaces: a greenhouse laboratory and a solar powered workshop and classroom. These new spaces will also allow visits to go ahead in inclement weather.

Pupils will attend one afternoon a week over the full 10 week summer term. Our Volunteer Squad attends three times a week, 11 months of the year.

Coming Soon

Thought-provoking

Happy New Year to all our plotters, volunteers and friends of GFAA. Good growing to you all in 2022!

I think this short, but powerful article will be of interest to all. It certainly got me thinking. Available via this link.

A Food Forest in your Garden by Alan Carter

It’s a real pleasure to review this title from a local Aberdeen author, Alan Carter. Alan is a plotter here in Aberdeen and this is (I believe) his first published book.

A few years ago (2018) I attended a Forest Gardening course Alan hosted on his allotment. It was a hugely enjoyable day, but a challenging one. I was a traditional plotter and the Forest Gardening approach undermined most of the ideas I had about growing vegetables.

Alan Carter in his Forest Garden allotment

I came away from the course keen to try out the methods I had seen, but since then I have struggled to make them work for me. I needed a “roadmap”: Alan’s new book will provide just that.

Spoiler alert: I think, “A Food Forest for your Garden” is an exceptional book. I am not alone: the book has attracted a bevy of admirers from within the community of food forest and permaculture growers. Alan has lived, breathed, trialled and adapted these methods for years and this shines through in his writing. The book is part bible, part manual and part memoir with all the authenticity and authority you could ask for. Oh, and with a rich dollop of humour thrown in for good measure.

I only have one reservation about the book – and that is its using the phrase “Food Forest” in the title. It may confuse some and put others off. Don’t be put off by it. Alan does a great job of explaining where it comes from, what its history is and how it works for gardeners. Everybody who has enjoyed lifting a shaw of tatties, or lamented the failure of their parsnips will enjoy reading this book and learn from it.

So what does it offer us plotters? These are the take-aways that stand out for me.

  • It will take your no-dig gardening practice and understanding to whole new heights. Conserving soil structure lies at the core of forest gardening.
  • If you are interested in adding more perennial veggies into your beds you could not find better advice. Alan lists a directory of hundreds of edible plants chosen because they are suitable for growing in Scotland.
  • It will help you extend the growing season beyond the short Scottish Summer and show new possibilities all year round.
  • You will be freed from the chore of endless weeding and trying to keep black earth black and weed-free. In the established forest garden annual weeds can’t find much a foothold.
  • There is money to be saved too through saving seeds and encouraging volunteer plants.
  • Alan provides a kitchen’s worth of personal recipes and advice on how to get the best out of each harvest.

Look on the book as an encyclopedia of how to design, create and manage your new garden. It is also lavishly illustrated with excellent photos, many taken by Alan on his own plot.

So, what’s not to like? Nothing. Do yourself a favour and ask Santa to pop a copy into your Christmas Stocking. It will make for a delightful dip-in read over the Christmas hols, then take its place on your shelves for years to come as a much used reference book.

Copies are available via Alan’s Own Website

Or from Amazon via this link.

Or for all good bookshops: Published by Permanent Publications in 2021 with IBSN 1856232999.

Wasps – more loveable than we think

Val (Plot 23) lead us into an interesting discussion at our General Meeting today. It seems that wasps are much maligned and far from the out and out baddies that some suggest. You can read something of the case for the defence via this link.

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