English English French French Spanish Spanish

Insects and lavender from a time before

FIRST PUBLISHED IN 2013!  MAJOR UPDATE AT END TO SHOW HOW NATURE HAS CHANGED

I love butterflies
I love butterflies

In about 10 days I will return to Spain.  How I have missed my beloved masia!  I think I have said this before; how many times? Here in Liverpool I am trying to organise the too many photos I have taken last year.  Processing, dumping, trimming down.  Of course looking at the vivid colours and the blue skies makes me yearn for Spain all the more, especially as it is still bucketing down here, both outside and inside the house!

Spread your wings beautiful one!
Spread your wings beautiful one!

In particular I have a lot of butterfly photos.  I love pretty insects.  I think almost everybody does.  And ugly ones such as black cockroach types fill me with panic!  Imagine if they were crawling and snapping around earth’s beautiful flowers and butterflies crawling under our kitchen cupboards instead? Even the praying mantis below is a bit scary, though very beautiful. I have this visitor in the house on occasion and take great pains to capture it safely to return outside. The female is the boss in their world. After sex with the male, she eats him! What more use does he have after all? Hashtag he too hashtag.

The fabulous praying mantis - but it is a mean bitch!
The fabulous praying mantis – but the female is a mean bitch!

I read that flies and mosquitos do not like lavender and I absolutely love lavender and this is how  Masia Lavanda came to be known as such.  No Casa Tony or Stacy for me although I had quite a fight with a few locals who were convinced that Mas Stephanie was the ideal name.

A bee reunion by a cactus
A bee reunion by a cactus

In the spring of 2012 Spanish neighbours passed by to visit when building got to the point where people could.  Why is it called Masia Lavanda?  They were perplexed.  You have no lavander here – but a lot of ants.

Ants ants ants - and very charming!
Ants ants ants – and very charming!

Yes, ants, but there are also loads and loads of lavander!  It’s just that they are all tiny at the moment – I got them from France.  The flies and mosquitos do not like Lavander, I explained. They will never take, they said.  I batted a few flies away and said, we will see.

Well, we all plant albahaca (basil) outside our doors because they don’t like that.

Well, I cook with basil.  I love basil.

You don’t!

The idea was clearly horrifying.

Yes, and so do the Italians.  You know pizza?  They put it on that.

I did not believe I was having this conversation.  Indeed, thinking about it, there was a lot of basil around about but none in the local cuisine.  Not much rosemary either, which ironically my masia and all the mountains are heaving with. The italians love rosemary too an it has so many healing properties! Also try this link to read about it.

Later I discovered there was basil… and basil. I would not recommend cooking with the kind they plant here to repel mosquitos.They truly do taste and smell of pesticide.

Bee and flowering rosemary
Bee and flowering rosemary

Rosemary is another mosquito repelling plant but sadly it attracts loads of flies – despite online wisdom.  The nice part is bees love it too. So you take your choices. Just come and visit and tell me those are not flies on my ubiquitous rosemary! In fact if there is one thing people moan the most about around here, it is the damn flies.The mountains are resplendent in rosemary in all its stages –  young, big, small and withered to brown at the top.  They are all frequented by flies regularily like village bars.

A cabbage butterfly - I think?
A cabbage butterfly – I think?

To explain a bit more – Felix, my immediate neighbour, advisor and cherished stone man, raised his eyebrows when I told him my lavender plans six months before.  You know lavander is not native to these parts, he said.  There is some, but not much.  And it is different, not like the stuff you see in books.  It doesn’t really flower.

But I ignored him and went on a search.  Finally, down near Benicàssim I found a nursery with 10 small over-priced plants.  They looked healthy enough, but  did not take to the red mountain soil and were dead within a month despite sensible watering.  Not to be deterred, on my next visit to France, I stuffed the car with scores of healthy looking lavenders for 50 centimes each.  The only thing that is cheaper in France, I think.

When I returned over the Pyrenees to Spain, I was stopped by border police and they sent sniffer dogs into my car while I stood outside like a wild mountain goat (hair not blow-dried and eye infection).  The dogs were a bit thrown by the lavender.  Not the kind of herb that figured in their training. The police looked at me with, could it be, pity for their mistake?

The french lavender is truly at home now
The french lavender

Back at Masia Lavanda, the plants have thrived and I am happy to say that in 2013 my casa was surrounded by beautiful flowering lavenders and loads of butterflies and bees.  For the first time ever we spent a practically fly-free year, at least around the masia and I’m including Ryanair in this as the airport was not opened yet . However, the wasps?

c
Loads of these around!

UPDATE 2022 – sadly Felix and the locals were right. Most of my lavenders have given up. Dead.  Despite all my best intentions, including planting again. And there are hardly any bees or butterflies anymore. But masses of wasps, horrible aggressive ones. Climate warming?  Suggestions?   Or should I rename my masia?  Masia of the wasps? Rosemary Paradise?  I still love it and it has taken on another beauty. In the meantime, the world seems doomed due to mankind’s abuse. So, yes, major.

A few lingering lavenders while the local plants take over
A few lingering lavenders while the locally suitable plants take over

To see more insect photos click here

9 Comments

  1. Ingrid Spiegl
    September 23, 2022
    Reply

    Just read “ All among the Barley” by Melissa Harrison, and it filled me with sadness for the loss of birds and insects due to modern farming methods, but it’s also a great story!
    Your blog had the same effect, yearning for lost things. We stayed in the Lot valley a few years ago and walked nearly every day through a patch of wild thyme which had every variety of butterfly feeding on it, including swallowtails as in your photo. I’ve planted tame thyme here; as yet no visitors but sedum spectabile is like a trendy bar with every bee and butterfly, and it seems drought tolerant. Sorry for the long ramble- you inspired itI with your beautiful blog ! Xx

    • stephanie de leng
      September 23, 2022
      Reply

      THATS just so lovely to read. I am truly worried about the butterflies. As q child they were EVERYWHERE! Rant and rave and tell your stories as much as you can. What is sedum spectabile?

  2. Corky Gormly
    September 18, 2022
    Reply

    Yes another wonderfully beautiful post Stephanie!
    Thank you so much, I love reading your posts.
    Lavender is also used by birds in their nests as an insect repellent for mites or blood sucking insects- I have quite a lot here and i see them taking it while they are building their nests.
    They also use other aromatic herbs in their nests.
    But the bees and butterflies love the lavender flowers!

    • stephanie de leng
      September 18, 2022
      Reply

      Gosh Corky – you learn something new everyday! I still haven’t entirely given up on the lavander, but at the moment I am planting certified pesticide organic and clean garlic for next June. I use so much of it!

  3. Gill
    September 17, 2022
    Reply

    What a shame that your lavender experiment did not work out as hoped.
    Thank you for a very interesting read. I retired to France for nine years, but the summer heat and my concern about being isolated, as I was dependent on my car, brought me back to a live in Surrey.
    Your butterfly photos are delightful.
    May you continue to flourish in Spain.

    • stephanie de leng
      September 17, 2022
      Reply

      I understand your worry Gill. I’m doing up a house in my village in case I can’t manage the stones here anymore. Luckily I have full free medical care and will be studying to take my exams for a Spanish passport next year. The heat in France this year was much worse than here. Being 677 meters above sea level helps! Further up there are villages that never get heat more than 25c. But the winters….BRRRR

  4. May 25, 2014
    Reply

    I need to to thank you for this wonderful read!!
    I certainly loved every bit of it. I have got you bookmarked to
    look at new stuff you post…

  5. Harvey
    February 28, 2014
    Reply

    Interesting post

    • stephanie de leng
      February 28, 2014
      Reply

      Gracias!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *