Worms

I have the vermicomposter for some weeks now. It seems like the worms are getting accustomed to their new home – I think (it’s a bit hard to connect, because each time I open the composter everybody is diving away :-/ ).

I have been feeding them small quantities of vegetable. But: how do worms eat? How small should the pieces I feed them be? Can I just give them chunks of carrot? I’m getting a little bit worried, because the leftovers from the carrots and other vegetable pieces are still clearly not eaten…… I even removed some of it after I read the worst thing you could do is to overfeed them.

Okay, I know, this isn’t the nicest picture I’ve made….. 😉

I have been thinking a lot about Darwin lately. In his last book “The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits” he has written about his observations and experiments with worms. I haven’t finished the book, but I was really impressed by all his observations – and even more about his curiosity.

But – partly because the worms are so afraid of the light (and maybe me) – I have decided to not do any observations of their behaviour myself. So I had to search the internet…….

I found that the digestive system of worms consists of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, gizzard, intestine and the anus. Most of that sounds familiar as we also have them – even if they may look a bit different. The gizzard is a kind of stomach which contains some sand and grit. It has strong muscular walls and in there the food is ground as the worms have no teeth to chew their food.

So with no teeth they can’t take a bite of the carrot 🙂 Instead they have to wait until the food is a bit decomposed by bacteria or springtails or other small animals so they can suck it in.

Maybe I should just have some more patience. Maybe they are still eating the coconut core I put inside the vermicomposter as I started it. And next time I feed them, I’ll cut the vegetables in really tiny pieces.

So, you might have noticed that I’m a bit unsure about how to treat my new pets. If you have any experience with a vermicomposter I would be happy if you could give me some advice!!

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Common daisy

Have you ever had a really close look at a common daisy? I hadn’t – until now.

Some time ago I wrote a post about the dandelion on my former (dutch) blog and found it such a fascinating flower (I think most things are fascinating if you have a closer look 🙂 ). So now I thought it would be time to investigate another Asteraceae.

Of course everybody can see that there are the white petals and the yellow center. And after reading and writing about the dandelion I already suspected that the yellow part would also be lots of flowers – and so it is. But I was a bit surprised that all the white petals were also little female flowers…..

So I think – but am not sure – that this little thing must be the carpel……

And on another petal I saw this…..

And again I’m not sure what I’m seeing. I have tried to find if the ray flowers of the daisy are fertile, but I found sources saying that they are and others saying that they aren’t. But at least I think this could be the ovary.

The petals of the little yellow flowers in the center – the disc flowers – are fused into a corolla tube. In the middle of the center they are still closed, but at the edge they are open. You can see it here…..

The little flower has 5 petals which are grown together, but you can see the tips of them on the picture above.

It has both male and female parts.

And then my next problem began: I saw what looks like two different stages in the flowering process.

And now I can’t decide which comes first. I have looked at different flowers and my guess from what I have seen is, that first the little petal tips open a bit and that is what you see on the bigger picture above, then it opens wider – that’s what you see on the left picture and then it kind of closes again – and that’s on the right picture.

I have also put the little flowers under the microscope…..

So my guess is, that you see the carpel on the right. But where are the stamens? I think here…..

At least that is what I’ve read: that they are grown together.

Who would have thought that a little daisy could be so complex? I think I have more questions now, then I had before writing this post…..

So if you know more about them and see that I made mistakes, please write me!!

Vermicomposter

Since yesterday we have a 1000 new pets 😉

We bought ourselves a vermicomposter!

A couple of years ago I read a book by Amy Stewart: “The Earth moved. On the remarkable Achievements of Earthworms”. About the very important work earthworms do for the ecosystem (and also that their numbers are decreasing). They turn waste to worm humus. And that’s what I hope they will do on our balcony…..

We only got it yesterday. As you can see it’s made from plastic, but you can also find descriptions on the internet about how to make one yourself from wood. But I thought – as I’m a beginner – it would be better and easier to buy the whole set with worms and a description about what to do.

Here are two of the worms…..

I think, I woke them up as they seem to be more active at night than during daytime. The description also said that the worms at first have to get used to their new surroundings and that you should be aware that they might want to escape until they are settled after a couple of days.

So our balcony seems to be getting more interesting week after week 😉

I’ll keep you informed!


Balcony bees

I have promised to keep you updated about the insect hotel we’ve made and installed on our balcony.

I must confess that I was a bit skeptical if the bees would find the hotel, but they did! I wasn’t at home that day, but my husband saw them and made the pictures I am showing you in this post.

They’ve chosen the holes in the piece of wood.

As far as I know, this must be some kind of mason bee. These bees use holes to lay their eggs in. They first gather lots of pollen, put this in a hole, lay an egg in the hole and close this part with some sort of mud. They do this until the hole is filled and then close it with some more mud.

Here you can see one and it looks like she carrying something……

She also tried the smaller holes, but didn’t fit in….

And here’s a close up. I think it could be a red mason bee.

I found it interesting that it wasn’t just one bee, but two or three. I think the term “solitary bees” made me think, that they would be working and living all by themselves. And they do differ from honey bees, because they don’t live in colonies, but maybe these were sisters that had emerged from the same hole?? Who knows? I have read, that the eggs in the back of the hole develop into female bees, whereas the ones in front become males.

And now we have to wait for one year. In this time the eggs become larva, which will eat the pollen. After that they spin into a cocoon and hibernate – still inside the hole. So it will not be before next spring that the next generation of bees will emerge.

Springtails

In my last post about “pond life” I had been wondering what these small pink critters were and after some more research I finally reached the conclusion that they could be springtails.

The first time I heard about springtails is only some years ago after I joined Flickr. As I love macro photography I joined some of the macro groups and that’s where I saw pictures of them.

It’s hard to find them in real life, because they are so tiny. So sometimes – as with the pond pictures – I only see them on my pictures later on my laptop. As in these ones ……

Can you see him? On the top of the leaf?

But sometimes I find them crawling around on some old leaves……

Here you can watch a little video I made a few years ago of one of them.

The thing is, even if you hardly ever see them – and a lot of people might have never even heard about them – there are thousands of them in a square meter of ground. And as we have seen, some of them also live on the surface of water. So this shows again: there is sooooo much to explore and learn, but we shouldn’t forget to keep our eyes (and ears and other senses) open!! 🙂


Pond life

If you google “pond life”, it seems like this is typically something to explore with children. I can remember as a child catching little frogs with a friend – only to release them directly- to see which frog would return fastest into the water….. But I don’t remember about being especially interested in what lives in the water.

But I’ve started to enjoy it now (as you might have noticed from my posts about algae 🙂 ).

In one of the small nature reserves around here we’ve discovered that they’ve dug some holes in the ground and produced about 10 little ponds (I should count them next time I’m there :-/ )

If you just give them a superficial glance, they don’t seem very interesting. But the last two times we spent them a visit, we’ve had a closer look and found they contain lots of animals – mostly insects and their larvae – even in the tracks of the excavator which dug the holes!

There were – of course – pond skaters and little snails (and backswimmers, but I forgot to take a picture of them)……

And we found a water scorpion (here on a stick to get a better image, but we put it back immediately)…

In the tracks of the excavator were the aquatic larvae of caddisflies and these weird little …… swimming piglets ……..?? If you know what they are please tell me. (Update: I think they might be springtails!?). And maybe you also know what the name of these algae could be?

Then there were some insects next to the ponds. Like a bee fly and this other fly – of which I think that it probably is a marsh fly.

And finally, we also saw two newts – here is one of them 🙂

So…..who has to fly to the tropics to see some interesting things? 🙂

Insect hotel

I think a lot of you already have an insect hotel, but I didn’t ….. until now. I’m not sure what kept me from making one as I’m interested in insects. Maybe it was the fact that we only have a small balcony and are living on the second floor. But now, finally, we made one ourselves.

I am reading the new book of Dave Goulson “The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to save the Planet” (it’s not yet available in English, but it is in German). That and visiting a lecture about helping the insects got me moving.

We just used an empty tin can. Made a little hole in the bottom so we could screw it on a wall later. My husband had gathered some left over reed from the lakeside and I shortened them so they would fit inside the can.

At the lecture they had told us, that you should fasten the reed with something so the tits wouldn’t draw them out of the tin and use it as a kind of snack-bar. So we used some modeling plaster and put the reed inside. And as we didn’t have enough reed, I put some little sticks in the gaps.

I also had some old wood and we drilled differently sized holes in this too.

And then we fastened it on the wall.

So now I only have to wait. I’m really curious if it works! I’ll keep you updated 🙂