It’s the gleaning season. We head off on our daily bike rides with rucksacks now and come back with either plums or apples from each one. And it’s a bumper season. Last year was very poor due to the secheresse (drought) on top of the diabolically cold winter, but this year the trees are making up for it with a vengeance.

One ride alone furnished us with around 12 kg of apples.

gleaning apples

Another suppled 6 kg of plums.

gleaning plums

And added to all the roadside fruit are blackberries from our hedgerows. With all our fields we’ve got lots to pick.

gleaning blackberries

Picking fruit can be hazardous due to various stinging insects lurking amidst the windfalls. However, there are very few wasps around at the moment. It seems to have been a bad year for them, I’m guessing because of the long, cold spring we had. Every cloud has its silver lining.

I’ve been trying to find some facts and figures on wasps in France but can’t come up with much, other than to tell you that there are five main species of ‘sociable’ wasps who are the ones that give us most aggro. They are:

Vespula Germanica – the European wasp, about 18 mm long and bad tempered.

Vespula Vulgaris – the common wasp, and even more bad tempered.

Vespa Crabo – the hornet. These generally are fairly shy and a lot less trouble than wasps. They may look and sound a little scary but tend to keep out of your way.

Polistes – paper wasps. I think these are probably the ones I call long-leggedy wasps which hang around our dustbins sometimes and deliver one heck of a sting.

Dolichovespula silveris – tree wasp. Not generally much of a nuisance to people.

On top of these varieties that live in colonies there are a whole load of solitary wasps, most of which lay their eggs in an unfortunate host, either animal or vegetable, to bring up for them while being eaten alive by it. These can sting but since, by their nature, they’re solitary you don’t have to deal with swarms of them.

Take a look at for some more info and pictures of these critters. Me, I shall go and destone a zillion plums…