A Tale of Balsam and Guilded Cages

Taf Fechan by Chris Lawrence

Taf Fechan by Chris Lawrence

The Larval Cage of Hypera Rumicis

The Larval Cage of Hypera Rumicis

After again joining battle with balsam this year at Pwll Waun Cynon I am pleased to announce that we appear to be winning, or at least having a noticeable effect, with the general consensus being that the balsam has decreased by over a half compared to last year throughout the reserve.   There are still strongholds of course but even these have decreased in area and density through concentrated effort of pulling and cutting, we are particularly pleased with the results around the fence lines which were particularly bad when we started balsam removal a few years ago but are now relatively clear.   It’s a strangely good feeling to have to actively hunt for balsam plants rather than being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and wondering if you’ve done any good after a day’s work.

Forgive a slight tangential shift but being bum up head down for long periods of time does have other plusses apart from clearing invasives from your reserve, it allows you to concentrate on the small things that often remain unseen.   There is an unaccountably warm feeling of comradery and kinship when you notice the mines of Phytoliriomyza melampyga in the Balsam leaves; this small Flies larva eats Balsam! Yes each mine must only have a very small, almost negligible effect but it’s always nice to have allies isn’t it.    This bum up head down thing may also lead to amazement and revelation, a strong statement perhaps but how else would you see a golden cage attached to a balsam leaf?   After some research I discovered these exquisite little golden cages are made by Weevils: I’ll let that statement sink in a little.  Yes Weevils.   The larva of Hypera rumicis created this grand design to safely pupate in, the miracle of metamorphosis housed in a gilded cage.

Graham Watkeys