Death traps

January 16, 2022

Mornings at this time of year are dominated by harvesting fruit. From mid-December it was boysenberries – and we have the most abundant crop ever of these wonderful juicy and slightly tart long black berries. They’re still going a month on, although have slowed, thank goodness. There are only so many one can eat after all – for breakfast lunch and dinner at the moment – and the freezer is well stocked already. Friends and neighbours have also benefitted. As have the birds. The decision was made not to net the boysenberries this year. Too hard. I was sceptical but in fact this year’s crop has been so huge the few berries the birds have taken has almost been a relief!

As well as boysenberries though there are now raspberries to pick. These vines are covered and it is rather a jungle in there despite our best efforts to keep them under control. The nets keep the birds out, but not the bees, other insects, or tiny tree frogs. The latter are attracted by the shady cool environment, and a regular supply of moisture. So there are small risks and to avoid them I need to navigate some fragile barriers as I make my way down the row. Three delicate, finely spun and ecliptic structures greet me every day. They’re a silent, sticky and visible klaxon strung across the path, their owner stretched out and waiting in the middle, shimmering in the dappled sunlight, a warning to the unwary. But I know they’re there so I’m prepared. I flicked a morsel to one of them once, by way of an apology for the daily destruction I cause to their handiwork. Or should that be legwork? I was stunned at the speed that tiny creature was wrapped, bound and suspended. Talk about deadly efficiency.

By now the iridescent proprietors of these deadly traps must know I’m coming. Perhaps they sigh with irritation at the knowledge they will have running repairs to do again when I’ve gone. I like to think they realise I’ve had the decency to disturb them as little as possible, by trying not to wreck the whole web. I can only admire their patience and resilience since they’ve yet to give up in disgust and abandon this real estate. It must be lucrative, because tomorrow those three webs will almost certainly be strung across the narrow walkway separating the two rows of raspberry canes.