Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Tattiest Creature

I think this is the tattiest butterfly I have ever seen, and yet it was clearly unimpeded by the loss of at least half of all four wings. I encountered it on my July butterfly survey, happily feeding on a Wild Teasel Dipsacus fullonum (or la cardère sauvage in French).
This is what a Silver Washed Fritillary Argynnis phaphia (in French Le Tabac d'Espagne ie 'the Spanish Tobacco') ought to look like.


Saturday, 30 July 2011

Where's the kitchen at?

We have been dropping hints about the kitchen - we mentioned the floor and the buying process, we even mentioned how I built the furniture. So far, however, we haven't posted actual kitchen photos.

This is because the kitchen isn't finished. The worktops (granite "Pedras Salgadas", more on which another day) don't arrive until September, and who wants to see the job half finished? We only have cheap melamine scewed to the top so far, so although you can see what it's meant to be, it isn't yet. The oak doors do look good though, and we like the hidden fridge feature and glass fronted upper units. In fact, we're pretty chuffed with the whole deal.

Still - the kitchen is looking almost there (if not quite) so a photo or two just to prove we haven't been slacking:

This is one corner of the kitchen - the preparation area. You can just see the cabinet next to the yet unconnected except for the oven cooker, and we also have a set of cabinets where the sink will one day be. We worked really hard on a method of filling in the gaps between cabinets so you dont see the carcass of the furniture between, and are really happy with the results. It did use more "filler" panels than I wanted to, but the result is worth it.


Friday, 29 July 2011


Water Primrose Ludwigia spp, or la Jussie, as it is known in French, is an invasive plant in a number of regions of France. It comes from South America and was introduced to France in the 19th century as an ornamental. There are actually two species: L. peploides (Jussie peploïde) and L. uruguayensis (Jussie à grandes fleurs).

It is a rooting aquatic plant with alternate leaves and yellow flowers 2-5 cm across, which come from the leaf axils. It flowers from June to September. The plant is very variable, with several forms possible.

Jussie growing along the shore of the Vienne river in Chinon, on a bend between two bridges (below). A typical site to find the plant, where the water is slow.

Jussie likes stagnant or slow moving water (étangs, marshes, irrigation canals, water courses, wetlands) and grows best in full sun. Plants can develop in up to 3m depth of water and sit up to 80 cm above the surface of the water. The principal mechanism of reproduction is by cuttings - the smallest fragment will create a new plant, resulting in a carpet of vegetation. They first appear in the shallows, but soon move out to the centre of a body of water, choking out the native yellow waterlilies and water knotweed and interfering with the activities of wild animals.

A thick blanket of Jussie.
This means that handling the plant in any way can create new colonies, which poses a real danger for aquatic and wetland habitats. There are both economic and ecological consequences.
  • It can harm certain species of fish by depriving them of food and egglaying sites.
  • It accelerates the process of siltification with its accumulation of organic material and by trapping material in suspension.
  • It disturbs other animal species such as waterfowl, depriving them of retreats and nesting places.
  • It alters the quality of the water.
  • By its rapid takeover it supplants other aquatic and semi-aquatic plant species, causing them to disappear in a few months!
  • It renders some activities difficult or near enough impossible eg. fishing, boating, hunting waterfowl.
The public is being asked to help in the following ways:
  • Owners and managers of ponds - prevent the propagation of plants when draining by placing filters or nets over the drain. Not to do so risks a rapid colonisation downstream in water courses or other connected ponds. You must also meticulously clean your equipment (nets, boots, etc).
  • Aquarium owners - when cleaning your aquarium put all plants and rubbish in a sealed bag before throwing it in the garbage bin.
  • Fishermen and walkers - don't cut, transplant or trim it. Any handling of the plant contributes to its propagation.
A pretty picture, but a problem plant.
The authorities are considering three ways of fighting this beautiful but problematic plant:
  • Mechanical weeding - used to re-open very densely covered areas. The effect is immediate, but must be finished manually and the work must be maintained to limit the return of the Jussie. Everything must be carefully controlled to prevent cuttings from re-establishing themselves.
  • Hand weeding - effective and advantageous for small surfaces or ecologically sensitive sites. The weeding must start the moment the first plants appear. Every single fragment of plant must be removed off the site. This technique can be used on its own or to maintain control following mechanical weeding.
  • Herbicides - these substances, even if approved, can impact very strongly on an aquatic habitat. Their use is not recommended.
In brief:

DON'T use techniques that break the plant up and thus help to propagate it eg. strimming.

DO act quickly, as soon as possible, when the first plants appear. If you wait it will be too late.


Thursday, 28 July 2011

Pears - Yum

Despite the drought, the pear crop looks like being excellent around here this year. I've just picked our Beurre Hardy and they are sitting in a box to finish ripening. I'll poach them and make sorbet from the syrup in about a week's time. Later on, after they've swelled some more on the tree I'll pick our Asian pears (nashi, or pomme-poire, as they are known in French) and Doyenne de Comice (perhaps to coincide with the local Comice d'Agricole, or agricultural show, as their name implies).

Meanwhile, we've been photographing other people's pears. Birds and insects love pears, and often get to them first.

Below a peaceful scene of co-existance, with two species of ladybird and a greenbottle enjoying the flesh of a pear growing in the potager at the Prieuré de Saint-Cosme after a blackbird has broken it open.

Contrast with this scene of fury below. These hornets at the Prieuré d'Orsan were determined to kill one another over this scrap of pear skin. The greenbottle just ignored them.

Social wasps, lined up like suckling piglets to get their share of juicy pear flesh, below. Once again, a greenbottle lurks.


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Carpark at Chenonceau

As you can imagine, at this time of year we spend quite a lot of time at Chenonceau. While Susan is in the château I usually sit in the carpark. Quite often there are some interesting cars to look at (like these), and last Monday afternoon was no different. Often it is a car club, but this week the Citroën 2CV world meet is at Salbri Salbris, an hour east of Chenonceau and there were plenty of cars calling in (and passing) on their way to the meet.

The cars were mainly Citroën 2CV and their
derivatives, including 3 Meharis from Denmark
There was also rather a nice modern car. Anyone
want to buy me a Maserati? I won't complain.
It isn't just cars - many people visit Chenonceau
by bike, including this rather natty trike
Of course, it's Célestine who attracts the most attention.
Although I am a bit worried - should I admit to going to one of the great châteaus of France and enjoying the car-park more?


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A New Camera

I have recently bought a new camera as a reward for the work we have done on the house.

It's a Fuji HS10, which I bought because: it has a long telephoto lens (28-720mm), it does manual focus, and the zoom is a manual zoom, not a whizz whirr button that doesn't do the exact lens length you want.

I was playing around with the camera the day after I received it, and took the following photos from the courtyard of the chateau at le Grand Pressigny.

Full wide angle: I have highlighted the
area covered by the zoom lens
A detail of the wide angle photo at 100% sizeFull Zoom lens from the same position.
A detail of the zoomed photo at 100% size
It isn't the perfect camera by any means: it's slow to auto focus and takes a while to start up, and the image stabilisation is a bit weird (the camera clunks in your hand when the stabilisation is on) but for under £200 a bloke has to be happy.


Monday, 25 July 2011

Simon's Birthday

Saturday was Simon's birthday, so we had a party. It wasn't the barbecue extravaganza in the orchard that we had last year for his 50th, but it included many of our good friends who live or holiday locally.

Even though I had said 'no presents' in the invitation, no one turned up
empty-handed, and you can see they've got Simon sussed.
Simon spent most of the party upstairs in the new bathroom, giving each couple as they arrived a personal guided tour. Everyone was fairly impressed, which is pleasing.

The washing up (minus most of the glasses). The old dishwasher
has died and the new one is not plumbed in yet.
I got to use 'the Italian Job Mark II', the new oven*, for the first time, to cook slow roasted shoulder of lamb with vegetables for those who stayed to dinner after the initial round of drinks and nibbles.


*The new range cooker will get a post of its own in due course.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Flint Knapping

Preuilly sits at the heart of a prehistoric factory. The soil here is chalky, with many limestone outcrops. With this type of geology comes veins of silex (flint) - a material vital to prehistoric man. In some areas of the world, man's pattern of settlement is dictated by the availability of water. In the south Touraine water is abundant everywhere, so it was undoubtedly because of the flint that man came to live in the Claise and nearby valleys in the Early Paleolithic period, and the evidence of flint tool making has been found in many places in the district. Occasionally specialist tools made of shell or other material are found, but most tools from this time are flint.

Flint is very heavy - much heavier than the limestone, therefore it is worked where it is found. Very often, archaeologists notice that there are two piles of waste, that have fallen each side of the flint knapper's leg. These piles of waste can tell you how high the individual was sitting and what type of tools they were making. Archaeologists are able to reconstruct the flint nucleus by studying the pattern of detritus at some sites. This type of examination of the evidence gives a good understanding of the technical aspects of flint tool manufacture.

Recently I attended a flint knapping demonstration at our local museum. The flint knapper was a local teacher and archaeology enthusiast, Bertrand. He taught himself the technique, based largely on observation of ancient tools and 'factory' sites, which can reveal much about how the flint was worked in prehistoric times.

He uses the tools available to prehistoric man: 3 sizes of red deer antler, a boxwood club or hammer, hard river stones (hammer stones), smaller abrasive sandstones, some deer antler tips and a deer hide to protect his left thigh and knee.

Bertrand using the antler hammer on a flint nodule.
Step one for the modern exponent of the art of flint knapping is to remove your mobile phone from your pocket. It seems being walloped with a hammer stone never does them much good.

Next, inspect your lump of flint closely. It may be a dalle (thin and flattish) or a rognon (nodule). The dalles will strike like a bell if they are sound and without flaws. It is more difficult to judge the quality of a nodule, but you hope for a nucleus that will strike a variety of tools from alternating sides. Each lump of flint is coated with a cortex of limestone, which sometimes needs to be removed before you can assess the best way to strike. The flint is dark grey, brown or orangey, somewhat translucent looking. The limestone cortex is pale and a few millimetres thick.

A large feuille de laurier in the foreground, with a smaller one behind,
some polishing stones, antler 'nibbling' tools and a couple
of lames (blades) to the right.
The first tool he made was a scraper, done by striking the fat end of the nodule and causing a piece the size and shape of a scallop shell to shear off. It was quickly neatened along the edge with some deft taps from the antler. This type of tool, and evidence of its manufacture, has been found in great numbers in the Brignon valley not far from Preuilly. Simple tools like this can be retouched several times in their useful lifetime.

Turning the nodule over, he then created a knife with a fine, very fragile edge. This was followed by using the face created to strike off a series of long thin flakes using the antler hammer. These types of tools were all typical of the Early to Middle Paleolithic, Bertrand said, or up to 40 thousand years ago.

Clockwise on the hessian mat: flint dalle, flint nodule,
polishing stones, antler nibblers and hammers, boxwood club / hammer
and a couple of pieces of tuffeau (soft limestone) to sit on.
When producing the lames or lamelles as they are called in French, it is important to prepare the striking platform each time between hammer blows, to ensure that the stone will shatter along a regular and predictable line. Here in the Claise Valley they apparently made a special style of lame in the late Paleolithic (40-30 thousand years ago) known as livres de beurre, a technique specific to this area. Striking off lames allows a multitude of sequential tools, from scrapers to burins. The little flakes could be glued into a bone handle and used to cut sinew and blood vessels when butchering game.

In the latest phase of flint tool making, the techniques evolved to produce bifacial points, often of considerable size (30+ cm and 1cm thick). In French these are known as feuilles de laurier. They are essentially a big knife, which could take a whole day to make. The feuilles de laurier differ from the earlier blades because they are symmetrical. This means they can be retouched when they lose their keeness. Earlier sliver like blades have a different angle on each side and cannot be retouched. Small 'laurel leaves' can be glued to a lance to form a spear tip using resin or wax and twine. Such spears are designed to wound an animal, which would then have been tracked until it collapsed from loss of blood and exhaustion.

So much flint was used in prehistoric times it is now difficult to find big pieces suitable for making the larger tools. The toolmaker's level of skill is also nothing like the prehistoric artisans - even as a modern experimental archaeologist, you simply don't get enough practice at working the material. The quality of modern flint working tools is poorer. Modern deer are much smaller than the giant creatures that lived in prehistoric times.

It is clear that the southern Touraine and adjoining northern Vienne, from Bossay to the confluence of the Claise and Creuse rivers, was a significant tool making location. Not everywhere had a local source of flint and tools from this area were traded and circulated widely throughout France, especially to areas like Brittany, which has much harder rock and no flint.


PS Bertrand and I share a family name. He and I have a theory that we have a common ancestor from Germany, so are distantly related. Members of the family probably reached England and France due to the widespread practice of hiring German mercenaries from the Middle Ages onwards.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Prieuré de Saint Cosme

Those of us learning French are always looking for ways of keeping the hard slog of learning fresh and engaging. One way I quite like, but don't really use often enough is to read poetry. The trick is to find the right poet, and Pierre de Ronsard (1524 - 1585) the French Renaissance court poet is a surprising contender. Even for someone with just about functional French like myself, the language of his poems is clearly beautiful, with charming imagery (rather like the sonnets of his contemporary, Shakespeare, would be if one was learning English, I think). Ken wrote a little post about Ronsard and translated one of his poems a while ago over on Living the Life in Saint-Aignan.

The Prieuré de Saint Cosme, looking from the
remains of the transept across to the graveyard.
Ronsard spent a good deal of time in his latter years at the Prieuré de Saint Cosme, where he was the Prior, and where he came to die. During his lifetime he acted as the hub for a group of thinkers and writers, and the Priory thrived, as it is on the pilgrim route for Santiago de Compostela. After his death, financial mismanagement meant the decline and eventual closure of the site and the land became a sort of communal resource. Local people divided it up into allotments and used the buildings as barns or salvaged the stone for other building projects.

Looking from Ronsard's grave to the refectory.
In the early 20th century La Sauvegarde de l'Art Français (the equivalent, I suppose, of the Churches Conservation Trust in the UK) spearheaded by wealthy French and American women, discovered the Priory and over a period of time bought up individual parcels of land to bring the site under their control and protection. The locals at the time took a fairly dim view of this activity, which deprived them of access to good land, and for their part, the new owners looked upon the residents as yokels with no sense of heritage or culture.

The great arch had been bricked in, but in the 1950's the
'sauvegardistes' opened it up in order to give a truer
impression of the place in Ronsard's time.
Today the site is managed by the Conseil Général, and after extensive archaeological digs, is open to the public so they may enjoy the romantic ruins and the beautiful garden now maintained there. Ronsard loved roses and refers to them often in his poetry, so the garden features many lovely roses. Bruno, the Head Gardener, told me that gardening on an archaeological site has some challenges. They are not allowed to water in certain places because of the risk of damage to the remains, and because it is an organic garden, they must painstakingly hand weed all the walls, rather than spray with herbicides. He said they would like to allow some of the garden to go a bit wild, but after repeated complaints from the public about how certain areas were looking scruffy, they have had to give up providing long grass to shelter wildlife.

Apples in the potager, trained as cordons on the angle.
We, and our guests, get in for free because we have joined the Conseil Général's Ambassador scheme. The Priory is in the village of La Riche, now part of the Tours agglomeration, and a very interesting visit if you are in the area, especially if you want a peaceful stroll in a lovely place, easy to get to from the centre of Tours.


Friday, 22 July 2011

We Need to Know More

A male Gymnosoma sp, golden and globular, about the size of a house fly.
This lovely little fly turned up in the orchard in early autumn last year. It's a type of parasitic fly from the Tachinidae family, called Gymnosoma. This one is male. I can tell that because it has a pattern of spots on its abdomen. Females have a broad irregular black stripe down the middle of their abdomen, or are even entirely black. Sadly, I can tell you very little more about it. Gymnosoma are impossible to identify to species level from photographs. They are not uncommon, but not overly abundant either, usually seen between July and September. Because they are difficult to identify precisely, even if you have a specimen in the hand and under magnification, we don't even know exactly how many species we have in Europe.

I will be collecting any I see this year and sending them to an expert to identify. Sadly, this does mean that they will have to be killed, but the ends justify the means in this case. What we do know about Gymnosoma is that some species are parasitoids (ie parasites which kill their hosts) of shield and stink bugs (punaises in French). Some of these bug species are serious horticultural or agricultural pests. It would obviously be useful to know as much as possible about each Gymnosoma species, after all, perhaps there is the possibility of using them as biological pest controllers. To do that, we have to start by identifying specimens in the laboratory. These specimens are kept, with all the data relating to their capture carefully recorded, so eventually we can build up a picture of where species occur, at what time of year, what their preferred habitat is and so on. As the taxonomists in the lab learn more and pass the information on, workers in the field will start building up a picture of the various species behaviour too. Ultimately, we may even be able to identify some specimens in the field by a combination of physical characters, behaviour, time of year, location and jizz. For example, my specimen has golden dusting which runs to the tip of the scutellum (the little projection between the thorax and the abdomen). This allows me to eliminate some species, but still leaves me with about 3 possible identifications, which I cannot at present separate. Neither can even the best experts just from the photos. At the moment they need the actual fly, to compare tiny details to other named specimens in their collections.

If you see a fly like this and fancy helping to further scientific knowledge on the subject, please catch it. You can get in touch with me and I will arrange for it to be sent on to an expert for identification. For the specimen to be of any value you need to record a minimum of location (latitude and longitude preferably) and date. Other information, such as type of habitat and weather conditions are also useful. Even if these flies have no potential on a commercial level as biological controls, it is important that we know how they fit into the ecological network.


The photos below show a lookalike you may encounter. They are a close relative of Gymnosoma called Ectophasia crassipennis, and quite common. They are easy to distinguish from Gymnosoma because they are bigger, more the size of a bluebottle, and have dark patches on their wings.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Drive Through Brocante

On 14 July / la Fête Nationale / Bastille Day we happened to be driving through the village of Ardentes in Indre. They were using the national holiday to hold a street brocante.

Usually when an event like this is staged in the street there is a diversion set up so that cars do not drive through the middle, but not here in Ardentes. We crawled through town, narrowly avoiding fragile items that were set out in front of stalls, creeping along behind groups of pedestrians strung out across the road and having to perform some creative positioning whenever we encountered vehicles coming the other way.

Utter mayhem and madness - whatever possessed the town authorities to dispense with the diversion?

At one stage, when we were clearly going to be at a standstill for several minutes, I lent out the window and bought 3 melons from the nearest stall. I suspect I was not the first customer the stallholder had served in this way.

The locally grown melons' perfume saturated the interior of the car on a hot day and we ate them with friends over the weekend, perfectly ripe and delicious.


Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Lizards in the Garden

Not our garden, but the lovely gardens at the château de la Châtonnière.

This Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis or Lézard des murailles (below) posed on a garden seat for photos before jumping agilely into the yew hedge behind.
Simon's keen eyes spotted this sub-adult Western Green Lizard Lacerta bilineata or Lézard vert occidental (below) lurking at the back of a flower bed, blending in with all the greenery.


Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Domaine de la Fontainerie

Recently we paid a visit to Catherine Dhoye-Déruet at Domaine de la Fontainerie. She is a well regarded winemaker within the Vouvray appellation. We had never met her before, but since our usual Vouvray stop with clients was hosting a group of 70 people that afternoon, we thought we would try someone else. Our friends Niall and Antoinette recommended Catherine some time ago, so I rang her and made an appointment.

Normally we visit family run wineries that have about 50-70 hectares. That is a medium sized operation for the Loire Valley in general. By contrast, Catherine's operation is tiny, with only 6 hectares. It always astounds me that such a small area can make a commercial winery, but Domaine de la Fontainerie is by no means the only small producer in the district.

Célestine parked at the gates of Domaine de la Fontainerie.
From her premises in the Vallée Coquette, which have been in the family for 300 years, Catherine produces 20 - 30 thousand bottles a year - just her and one employee. Being in Vouvray, she only grows a single grape, Chenin Blanc. This is the grape that Saint Martin brought to the Loire from Hungary in the 4th century, and his abbey is only a few kilometres down river.

Fungus around the base of the cuve (vat).
Like many producers in this area, Catherine's winemaking is done in a cave (cellar) dug into a cliff. The grapes grow directly above. Walking into such an old cave is quite an experience - everything is covered in fungus, a patina gained by centuries of winemaking in this place. No need to add yeast to these wines - it's here on the walls and in the air all around. The aroma is fruity and intense with just a little edge of sourness.

The walls and ceiling are black with fungus, the fûts (barrels) are old and oak.
Catherine herself is quietly spoken and gentle. She understands a bit of English, but is too diffident to speak more than a few words. In French she is happy to describe the wine, offering a wide choice of vintages to taste, in a variety of styles from sec (dry) to demi-sec (semi-sweet), moelleux (sweet) and pétillant (fizzy). We bought some 2009 sec (€6.50/bottle) and 2005 demi-sec (€7.50/bottle). Our clients bought a couple of bottles of 2005 demi-sec from her old vines grown in a section of the vineyard called the Coteau les Brulés. The clients, from Chicago, had never been to a winery anything like this, and I'm always amazed at how much time to visitors our local winemakers are willing to give, and what good value and high quality the wine is.


Monday, 18 July 2011

Visitors from Australia: part 2

Mum, Dad, and Célestine
On the Wednesday that my parents were with us we visited Loches and Montresor. In Loches we took them to see the not too long ago rediscovered Caravaggio paintings, and in Montresor we visited the chateau.

One of the drawing rooms at Montresor.
The chateau is a real 19th century time capsule
As Susan wrote before, on Thursday we visited the garden at la Chatonniere, stopping along the way at a restaurant "Croc & Broc" in le Hay. This is a funny little place, being a second hand store and restaurant combined. The food is good, but the brocante I am not so sure about.

My mother and father at la Chatonniere.
Friday was Tour de France day, full of noise and bustle, and added to by visiting the back of Chenonceau. It was a long and tiring day, so I think the parents were rather glad that on Saturday Susan and I had to work, leaving them to their own devices all day. We did manage to get out together, eating at le Twenty on Saturday evening

Mum and Dad in full Tour de France frenzy
Sunday was the end of Mum and Dad's holiday. We had a slow start to the day, visiting the potager in the morning. That afternoon the three of us drove to Tours to catch the train to Charles de Gaulle airport where they were catching the plane back to Sydney (from there they caught the bus to Canberra, making it 38 hours door to door).

It was good to have them here again - they were last here in June 2007, and it was great showing them the improvements we have made in the past 4 years, and giving them a better idea of what life in France is like for us. We do our best with the blog, but it isn't the same as being here.


Sunday, 17 July 2011

Visitors from Australia: part 1

I mentioned a couple of times over the past weeks that my parents were visiting from Australia. On Thursday (the 30th June) I went up to Paris to meet them off the Eurostar from London and bring them back to Preuilly. We arrived in Preuilly on the Thursday evening bus having public transported all the way. This took less than 3 hours, a saving of a couple of hours and a couple of euros over driving.

The train from London was delayed by 40 minutes
Luckily I had allowed 150 minutes for the
connection to Gare Montparnasse
We did many things over the week and a bit:

On Friday we had a little drive in Célestine, visiting la Gargantua, the Musée at le Grand Pressigny, and stopping at one of Susan's most reliable orchid sites. On Saturday we had a walk in the Forêt de Preuilly (where we saw some frogs) after doing the Saturday morning market shop.

Sunday, Preuilly held the second (as far as we are aware) fête de chasse, so we walked down to the plan d'eau to take in the hunting horn competition, look at the dogs, and have a splendid meal provided by the comité des fêtes (4 courses, 15euros)

Dad watching the hunting horn competition.
I bet you can't see him in that camoflaged hat.
On Monday we went to Tours and visited the Prieuré de Saint-Cosme, the remains of a monastry on the edge of Tours, where Ronsard wrote poetry. Susan will no doubt be writing about this garden at a later date.

The remains of the Prieuré de Saint-Cosme
On the Tuesday we left them to their own devices whilst I went for my health check up (I think I mentioned that I am really healthy...) and then ate dinner at l'Image (thanks Dad).


ps - this has taken ages to appear: we have been incredibly busy - my parents for 10 days, working for 5 days, and then friends visiting from London. I haven't had time to think, let alone time to write my thoughts down.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Dubo, Dubon, Dubonnet

Dubonnet was originally conceived (or so it says here) to try convince French Foreign Legionnaires to drink quinine. The ghosts of the advertising can be seen all over France and may in fact be the most common of wall painted adverts.

This example is in Chisseaux en Touraine.


Friday, 15 July 2011

Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth

One of the prettiest visitors to the garden in central France in July is the Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth Hemaris fuciformis (called le Sphinx gazé in French). They absolutely adore lavender, like so many long tongued insects do.

This one was photographed yesterday at the Prieuré d'Orsan, in Berry, a couple of hours to the east of us beyond Châteauroux.

This day flying moth resembles a bumblebee, and often feeds alongside them. The wings are transparent, with rust coloured borders.