Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Of beetles and spurges

A few weeks ago, in anticipation of the warmer weather, I bought a couple of beetle traps. In fact these are easy to make and I will certainly be constructing some in the near future. I visited Foxhill Farm a couple of days ago and set the traps in likely positions, using over-ripe pears and grapes as bait.

This morning I set out, full of hope and Weetabix, to check the results. The weather had been less warm than predicted in recent forecasts so I was not optimistic. My pessimism was indeed justified. One trap had been pulled apart by something far larger than an insect. The other contained just a single spider, Tenuiphantes tenuis. I must wait for warmer conditions and choose the trap locations with more care. In the meantime I have re-erected them in our back garden.

On a different matter, last Sunday I decided that a spurge in our front garden had grown too big. It had to go. Spurges - Euphorbia species - are known to have nasty, toxic sap, and the species I was dealing with, Euphorbia myrsinites, has copious sap, but I was wearing glasses so my eyes were, I felt, receiving protection. I set to work and after a few minutes the unwanted plant was safe in the recycling bin.

We still have one specimen of Euphorbia myrsinites in our front garden.
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 19 February. 2019
About three hours later the area around my left eye began to feel a little sore but a check in the mirror showed nothing but a little redness. By bedtime some swelling had occurred and I thought back. What had I been doing? Then I remembered the spurge but there little damage beyond the slight swelling and I was untroubled. By the following morning (Monday) the area around my eye was horrific: I appeared to have gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson.

My surgery didn't want to know: they had no appointments available that day and couldn't even promise to see me the day after. And there was no A & E at Danetre (Daventry) Hospital. As it happened, on Monday I was accompanying Chris for her check-up at Northampton General Hospital (she turned out to be doing well). I took the opportunity to visit the Eye Casualty department and they fixed me up with an ointment for the swelling and confirmed that the actual eye was undamaged.

Moral: be ultra-careful when dealing with any spurges! Euphorbia myrsinites is a handsome plant with succulent glaucous green foliage, but think twice before growing it.

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