Country diary: the thatch is buzzing with sleepy flies

West Charleton, Devon Here, at fly-level, is a forest of reed stalks: row after row of hollow stems to crawl into

The low buzz gives them away. The thatched roof I’m working on, perched on a hillside above the pigeon-grey Kingsbridge estuary in Devon, is full of insects. I have replaced the ridge; the final job is to clean down the roof. I flick away the off-cut strands of new wheat, bright yellow against the grey-brown old thatch, and “dress” the roof with the thatcher’s most important tool – a paddle-like implement that here in Devon we call a drift, though in most parts of England it’s known as a leggett.

As I slap the reed into place, clouds of flies tumble out and buzz drowsily into the winter air. Here on the hip – the part where the main face of the roof turns the corner into the triangular end – there are gaps between the stems of reed that are perfect for hibernating flies. Hymenoptera seem to prefer the densely packed wheat ridges: I found a queen hornet there last January, sprawling on a clump of moss, all yellow and ginger bristliness.

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Source: The Guardian
Country diary: the thatch is buzzing with sleepy flies