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This site is devoted to the biodiversity in the garden at 37 Heuvelstraat in Geraardsbergen (Belgium). The table provides a summary of the number of animals, plants and fungi currently documented. Every single species was photographed in the garden.
Welcome to Heuvelstraat!

This is the News page of 37 Heuvelstraat. Here you'll find the latest news about the site and life in the garden. Follow me on Facebook or subscribe to the RSS feed to stay informed. Use the contact form to get in touch or leave a comment in the Guestbook.
This is the English version of my Dutch site I am deeply indebted to Jane Frankel for revising and proofreading all text material. The site works fine in all modern browsers. To my knowledge, however, only Safari renders every page perfectly.

Site Work Ahead



When I designed this site, there were no tablets, no smartphones and no phablets. Small wonder the site only works really fine on desktops and laptops. In recent years, however, the number of mobile visitors has been increasing so fast that I've decided to completely rethink and redesign the site, based on a mobile first approach. That will take me a lot of time and effort. Meanwhile, I will no longer update the site. The new responsive site will have an entirely different and contemporary look and feel. Since many people, including mobile visitors, consult the site to identify species, all species galleries will be available until I launch the new version of the site.

See you around!

The only Chalcolestes in the village

Hi there! You may know me as the western willow spreadwing, the willow emerald damselfly or the green emerald damselfly. But my real name is Lestes viridis. Well, it used to be. A couple of years ago, they started calling me Chalcolestes viridis. Something to do with my way of life and what I looked like when I was much younger, innocently chasing water fleas, blissfully unaware of sex.

fourth scene of episode 8 of Garden Soap is a monologue delivered by one of the willow emerald damselflies that annually turn up in the garden, usually near the end of August. As always, I look forward to your comments and feedback.

A curious case of clarity

If I had a pound for every e-mail asking me to identify a weird looking, spiky insect that turned out to be just another larva of a harlequin ladybird, I could buy at least half a crate of premium Belgian beer.

The larvae of holometabolous insects rarely look anything like their parents. The 22-spot ladybird is an exception that proves the rule. But the fact that it doesn't take a trained eye to identify its larva to species level, is by no means the only peculiarity that sets it apart from nearly all other native ladybirds. Read all about it in this
new scene of Garden Soap.

Enjoy and till next time!

Some owlets are not what they seem

In the Low Countries, and in many other parts of mainland Europe, the silver y is a common migratory owlet moth. In the UK, though its numbers are almost certainly declining, in some years the species is still abundant. Dewick's plusia, a look-alike and relatively recent arrival, is far less common. The second scene of episode 8 of Garden Soap recounts my first and hitherto only encounter with this inconspicuous species in the garden at 37 Heuvelstraat.

As always, comments and feedback are welcome.

A load of garlic baloney

Having trouble getting pregnant? Here's what you should do…

first scene of this new episode of Garden Soap, the greenest soap ever, is all about garlic and its amazing virtues. Find out how to make a garlic tampon that boosts fertility and sees to it that, within a year, you'll be changing diapers.

Enjoy and till next time!

New species: narcissus bulb fly

Like many other hoverflies, the narcissus bulb fly (Merodon equestris), also known as the large narcissus fly, mimics a bumblebee. Its larvae live in and off the bulbs of daffodils, snowdrops and other plants. In the Low Countries and Britain, the first observations of this Southern and Central European species date back to the 19th century. By now, unwittingly introduced by international bulb trade, the species has established itself in North America, New Zealand, Japan and nearly every other part of the world.

New species: boat bug

In my garden, the dock bug (Coreus marginatus) is one of the most common true bugs. But a species that closely resembles it, the boat bug (Enoplops scapha), is not. In fact, to date I've observed and photographed it only once. In Dutch, literally translated, the boat bug is called the false or deceptive dock bug. A name it surely deserves!

Spiders & Harvestmen: four new species

Earlier today, I've added four species to the section Spiders & Harvestmen. By far the most notable new species is Nuctenea umbratica (the walnut orb-weaver). In December last year, arachnologists from 26 European countries, including the United Kingdom, elected this species European Spider of the Year 2017. In the garden at 37 Heuvelstraat, late spring last year, soon after a clutch of blue tits fledged, a walnut orb-weaver took possession of a nesting box. She occupied it till early November.

Odonata: an unexpected garden guest

On Tuesday 13 June, late in the afternoon, I went into the garden to cut some fresh herbs for a salad. To my surprise, I spotted a male banded demoiselle resting on a leaf that was half eaten by larvae of the Solomon's-seal sawfly. I'd never thought I'd get to see this species in the garden! I ran back inside to fetch my camera. Some twenty seconds later, catching my breath, I took my first photograph of this magnificent, utterly unexpected garden guest. A couple of days later, I once again saw a banded demoiselle flying by. It was clearly a male specimen too, so it may well have been the same individual.

Wild plants & Migrants: fourteen new species

The species gallery of the section Wild plants & Migrants now has 48 species, 45 of which I've managed to identify to species level. Perhaps the most welcome newcomer is Nasturtium officinale, better known as common watercress. This indigenous perennial spontaneously turned up in the garden pond this year. It has much smaller leaves than those of the watercress sold in supermarkets, but they taste just as nice: a spicy mix of turnip and radish, two other crucifers.

Lepidoptera: twelve new species

The wood white (Leptidea sinapis) and the Réal's wood white (L. reali) are true look-alikes. Except for first generation males they can't be told apart from a photograph. Apparently, hybrids occur too. In Belgium, both species are either rare or very rare, certainly in the province of East-Flanders. You don't really expect to see them in a garden, certainly not in an area where, according to the national database, they have never been observed. Small wonder that I am as pleased as Punch with my meanwhile approved observation of three foraging specimens on 10 May last. Now let's hope it wasn't a fluke! Of the twelve newcomers in the section Lepidoptera, the (Réal's) wood white is the only diurnal butterfly. All other new species are adults or caterpillars of moths and predominantly nocturnal lepidopterans.

Hymenoptera: six new species

Yesterday, I've added six species to the species gallery of the section Hymenoptera: the grey-backed mining bee (Andrena vaga), the Lathbury's nomad bee (Nomada lathburiana), the leaden spider wasp (Pompilus cinereus), two ichneumon wasps (Ichneumon stramentor and a species of the genus Hoplismenus) and the larva of the oak slug sawfly (Caliroa annulipes). I found the slug-like larva in the orchard, feeding on the leaves of a two year old oak sapling that probably grew from an acorn stored and forgotten by a jay. In spite of its common English name, the larvae of this sawfly also feed on the leaves of other trees. Which explains why, in Dutch, it is known as the lindebladwesp or linden sawfly (or, if you happen to be British, lime tree sawfly).

Diptera: eleven new species

The section Diptera of the site now documents 94 species, 76 of which are identified to species level. Of the remaining 18 unidentified species, based on my observations and photographs, I was usually able to establish the genus they belong to. By far the most striking new species is Stomorhina lunata. On account of the yellow bands on their abdomen, males of this beautiful blowfly are easily confused with hoverflies. The fly in the photograph is a female. To date, it is the only specimen of this species that I've found in the garden. In the Low Countries, Stomorhina lunata made its first appearance in the last decades of the previous century. Its larvae feed on the eggs of certain grasshoppers. In Africa, it concerns the eggs of some three species of locusts which, when swarming, can destroy entire harvests. More than likely, by now the fly also reproduces in the Low Countries and other parts of Europe where it used to be absent, including the UK. As yet, however, since locusts are missing, nobody knows exactly how. To my knowledge, the species does not yet have a common English name. In Dutch, it is called the sprinkhaanvlieg (grasshopper fly). Makes perfect sense. May I suggest calling it the grasshopper or locust blowfly?

Hemiptera: three new species

Yesterday, I've added three species to the section Hemiptera: Cyphostethus tristriatus (juniper shield bug), Deraeocoris lutescens (a plant bug) and Macrosiphum albifrons (lupin aphid). The species gallery of the section Hemiptera now has 58 species. Most of them are heteropterans (true or typical bugs). Not bad for a garden not even half the size of a soccer field. The creature in the photograph is a juniper shield bug. The pattern on its back always reminds me of a lyre.

Beetles: four new species

Last week, I've added four new beetle species: Chrysolina coerulans (blue mint beetle), Harpalus affinis (a ground beetle), Lilioceris lilii (red lily beetle) and Malachius bipustulatus (a malachite beetle). The species in the photograph is a red lily beetle. Even though these leaf beetles are beautiful creatures, as a gardener one would rather see the back of them. Their voracious larvae feed exclusively on true lilies and, when left alone, will completely defoliate and kill them. The grubs coat themselves in their own excrement, making them repugnant to birds and other predators. Yuck!

A case of mistaken identity

On closer inspection, the alleged larvae of the water-lily reed beetle (
Donacia crassipes) turned out to be those of the water-lily leaf beetle. The species gallery already included adult specimens of this tiny leaf beetle. To date, I haven't seen a water-lily reed beetle in the garden.

Fungi: three new species

Of the three new species, with the necessary caution, I could identify only two to species level: the grey spotted amanita and the poisonous parasol. The third species belongs to the genus Clitocybe. Perhaps it is Clitocybe rivulosa (fool's funnel). But it could, for instance, just as well be Clitocybe agrestis.

Unusual find

In the Low Countries, the poisonous parasol or
Chlorophyllum venenatum is an exotic species. To my knowledge, it has only been found in unheated greenhouses. In the garden at 37 Heuvelstraat, however, in early November 2016, these mushrooms emerged in the open air. They grew in a plant border covered with a thick layer of homemade compost, well protected against the elements by the eastern façade of the house. All observable features, including the foul smell of somewhat older specimens, indicated that they really were poisonous parasols. Only microscopic examination can be definitive, but I'm pretty confident I've got it right.

Time for new species, pictures and text material!

It has taken me nearly two years to complete this English version of my Dutch site. I now have time to add new species and pictures, and to write new introductions and Garden Soap episodes. Thank heavens for that! From now on, I will always update the Dutch and English versions together. The articles that I write for the Flemish monthly Nest are the exception to the rule. They will only be available through the News page of the Dutch site.

The breeding garden

Adult specimens of the sawflies
Tenthredo marginella and Tenthredo thompsoni are perfect look-alikes. They cannot be identified to species level with the naked eye. Apparently, the same is true of their conspicuous larvae. The fact that I've now discovered these caterpillar-like creatures in the garden, proves that at least one of these sawfly species reproduces here too. Which, once again, shows that gardens really can contribute to biodiversity conservation.

Garden Soap: Episode 7, final scene


In May 2009, a supercell thunderstorm severely damaged our garden's three magnificent linden trees (limes, if you are British). Restoring them to their former glory required drastic pruning. The following year, facing a shortage of linden tree nutlets, the firebugs switched to a diet of all kinds of seeds, carrion, berries and fruits. They developed a special fondness for figs. Find out more in the final scene of Episode 7 of my Garden Soap, the greenest soap ever.

Garden Soap: Episode 7, fourth scene


Near the end of the Second World War, a renowned German mycologist died after eating a dish of brown rollrims, a wild mushroom he'd enjoyed many times before. At the time, it was considered a delicacy. We now know that the brown rollrim is indeed perfectly safe to eat, though only once and never again. Read all about it in the fourth scene of Episode 7 of my Garden Soap.

Garden Soap: Episode 7, third scene


A young swallowtail caterpillar appears to be looking at a fully-grown version of itself. Because of the photograph's limited depth of field, the background is blurred. The future remains uncertain. The third scene of Episode 7 describes the making of what I believe is one of my best photographs to date.

Garden Soap: Episode 7, second scene


The composition and limited depth of field or DOF make this picture of a cluster of mushrooms more captivating and, to my eyes, more beautiful than a photo of the same group that has the entire group in focus. The second scene of Episode 7 of my Garden Soap is all about two DOF preview buttons: the one on my camera, now rarely used, and the priceless one in my brain. It also features a twosome of young conifer parasols, illustrating the same point.

Garden Soap: Episode 7, first scene


The first scene of Episode 7 of my Garden Soap is a call to civil disobedience. It features a tachinid fly and a wasp of the genus Cerceris. Both are feeding on the nectar of the creeping thistles in the garden. These much-abused wild plants attract hundreds of insects and other animals, some of which are quite rare.

Garden Soap: Episode 6, final scene


Like the common wasp, the German wasp has a sweet tooth. It is mad about fruit and soft drinks like coke. In most cases, the species can be recognized by the black dots on its head and its appalling sense of humour. The final scene of Episode 6 of my Garden Soap is all about Vespula germanica and the recurring Nazi nightmares that have plagued me for as long as I can remember. Enjoy and till next episode!

Garden Soap: Episode 6, fifth scene


The candy-striped spider can be found in just about every European garden. Up until 1982 it was one of just a few native spiders that could easily be identified to species level. But then something happened. Read all about it in this scene of my Garden Soap.

Garden Soap: Episode 6, fourth scene


Avid followers of my Garden Soap will certainly remember Mrs Five Legs. In this scene, this severely handicapped wasp spider makes a stunning final appearance.

Garden Soap: Episode 6, third scene


Feeling horny? To ward off predators, at the slightest touch a swallowtail caterpillar will protrude a bright orange, forked gland called osmeterium. It is said to emit a foul odour. To my nose, however, it smells like super-concentrated carrot juice. Not pleasant, but not horrible either. The third scene of Episode 6 is all about how priming your brain with search-images can help you find inconspicuous and/or well camouflaged small creatures. As always, I look forward to all comments and feedback. Till next scene!

Garden Soap: Episode 6, second scene


What you see, is what you get. Literally translated from Dutch, the original name of the Flemish ecological party was Start living differently. It is now simply called Green. For most people, including me, to really start living differently is a bit overambitious. Ever since I got hooked on nature photography, however, I've certainly started looking differently. The results, like this picture of a freshly moulted Old World swallowtail caterpillar in the second scene of Episode 6 of my Garden Soap, are often very rewarding.

Garden Soap: Episode 6, first scene


The first scene of Episode 6 of my Garden Soap is all about ghostly motorcycles and invisible gorillas. It also features a young swallowtail caterpillar. Enjoy and stay tuned!

Garden Soap: Episode 5, final scene


Doing a bit of research on the ecology of the European mole, I discovered to my surprise that there are no moles in Ireland. So now, whenever someone goes on and on about all the benefits of having moles in the garden, I can never resist asking why it never occurred to the Irish to import them. All joking aside, my discovery reminded me of a 1972 protest song by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, called The Luck of the Irish. In case you are not familiar with this song, the final scene of Episode 5 of my Garden Soap provides a link to a very basic live performance of it. Enjoy and till next episode!

Garden Soap: Episode 5, fifth scene


In Dutch, the European peacock is called a dagpauwoog or, literally translated, daytime peacock's eye. There's also a nachtpauwoog or nighttime peacock's eye: the (small) emperor moth. The fifth scene of this episode is all about the reproductive strategy of the peacock, one of just four native butterflies to overwinter as an adult. (My last name, by the way, is the equivalent of the English surname Peacock. For those of you who are old enough to remember the British sitcom Are You Being Served?, here's a line that should definitely ring a bell. – Mrs Slocombe: "Would you like to stroke my pussy, Captain Peacock?" Ah, those innocent days of old!)

Garden Soap: Episode 5, fourth scene


The caterpillars of the vapourer, also known as the rusty tussock moth, are anything but picky eaters. They are voracious creatures, capable of gobbling up just about any garden plant. Small wonder, for what goes in at the front, comes out at the rear almost unaltered. Moreover, since adult vapourers can't feed, they have to store up all the energy imagoes need to ensure the propagation of the species. The fourth scene of Episode 5 links the reproductive strategy of the vapourer to human eating disorders, fat fetishism and runaway natural and/or sexual selection.

Garden Soap: Episode 5, third scene


Avid followers of my Garden Soap should be well acquainted with Mrs Five Legs, the severely handicapped wasp spider. After having gone missing for a week or two, in the third scene of Episode 5 she makes a glorious comeback. Meanwhile, however, her old web has been taken over by an eight-legged squatter. The plot thickens!

Garden Soap: Episode 5, second scene


In the eyes of the rest of the world, Hurricane Katrina made the United States of America look like a Third World banana republic. A common wood pigeon's nest is about as storm-resistant as New Orleans' levees proved to be when Katrina hit the region in August 2005. But make no mistake: Wood pigeons are exemplary parents, taking far better care of their chicks than many of the most wealthy nations do of their youngsters. Sadly, they are also lousy engineers. Their nest is not much safer than the pussy of a beauty queen within the grasp of the Abominable Carrot.

Garden Soap: Episode 5, first scene


Imagine a CNN journalist asking Donald Trump if he knows the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner. "Sure," Trump answers, and starts singing The State Anthem of the Russian Federation. Unlikely? I guess so, though a would-be Prime Minister of Belgium did manage to mistake the French national anthem for the Belgian one. Read all about it in the first scene of the fifth episode of my Garden Soap and discover why the European paper wasp has all the hallmarks of a Belgian compromise.

Garden Soap: Episode 4, final scene


Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977) was a distinguished Russian-born author. He wrote in Russian, French and English. Even if you've never heard of him, you probably know the title of the controversial novel that was to make him famous. Though written in English, while he was living in the United States, Lolita was first published in France (1955). At the time, it was considered by many to be pornographic. I guess it still is. The final scene of Episode 4 links the novel to the nymphs or instars of hemimetabolous insects, such as the dock bug. Far-fetched? Read it and decide for yourself.

Garden Soap: Episode 4, fifth scene


While two dogs are fighting for a bone, a third runs away with it. In Dutch, this ancient proverb is better known and far more frequently used than in English. I suppose that's simply because, in Dutch, it is versified: it has rhyme and rhythm, making it easy to remember. To my ears, in English, it just doesn't ring well. The alternative English version, When two dogs strive for a bone, a third one runs away with it, doesn't really sound any better. So how about When two dogs strive for a bone, a third one takes it home or runs off with it alone or makes it its own? Anyway, a few years ago, I observed and photographed three male green dock beetles readily illustrating the proverb on the maiden sorrel in the kitchen garden. One of those occasions where I wished my trusted old digital SLR camera had video capabilities.

Garden Soap: Episode 4, fourth scene


This Garden Soap scene features the spotted longhorn beetle and the wasp beetle. Both are said to mimic wasps. That may well be the case, but I have my doubts. After all, the fact that both ancient Egyptians and Aztecs built pyramids, does not imply that one imitated the other. So perhaps the black and yellow patterns of so many insects and other arthropods are not necessarily good examples of mimicry either, even though natural selection certainly seems to favour them.

Garden Soap: Episode 4, third scene


Remember Mrs Five Legs, the severely handicapped wasp spider? Here's what happened next…

Happy New Year to all visitors of 37 Heuvelstraat! May 2017 be as uneventful, uninteresting and unmemorable as possible (though without being as disappointing as Steven Spielberg's rendition of the Big Friendly Giant).

Garden Soap: Episode 4, second scene


Have you ever wondered how non-human animals, especially insects and other small creatures, manage to instantly and infallibly recognize members of their own species? I guess most people take it for granted. When you think about it, however, it's actually quite a feat. The second scene of the fourth episode of my Garden Soap features Polydrusus sericeus and helps you to tell weevils of its genus apart from look-alikes of the genus Phyllobius. Naturally, these visual clues are of no importance whatsoever to the weevils themselves. Amazingly, without having access to either field guides or sophisticated identification keys, they know perfectly well who they are. Like magic!

Garden Soap: Episode 4, first scene


While orange trees yield oranges, lime trees do not necessarily yield limes. In fact, if one of the three giant lime trees in my garden would ever produce even a single lime, that would be a miracle. They do, however, attract lime hawk-moths, a species of hornworms named after its favourite host plant. Confused? In that case, my guess is that you were not born and bred in the British Isles. The first scene of the fourth episode of my Garden Soap is not a translation of the corresponding Dutch scene, but a somewhat opinionated reflection on the peculiarities of languages in general and English in particular. Enjoy!

Garden Soap: Episode 3, final scene


Snail-killing flies are neither the best-looking nor the best-known creatures. In fact, before I started working on this inventory of the biodiversity in my garden, I wasn't even aware of their existence. The final scene of the third episode of my Garden Soap introduces Sepedon sphegea, one of the nearly sixty species of snail-killing flies in the Low Countries. As always, I look forward to all comments and feedback. Till next episode!

Garden Soap: Episode 3, fifth scene


While I'd love to get my hands on a state-of-the-art full-frame SLR camera with an articulating live view screen, I'm still quite happy with the results of my trusted, ten-year-old EOS 400D. True, I now own a terrific though rather pricey macro objective, but the close-up of the mating female common darter in this scene of my Garden Soap was made with my first, inexpensive macro lens. A pretty good shot, if I say so myself.

Garden Soap: Episode 3, fourth scene


Not my best photograph of a red admiral, but it does illustrate why, in Dutch and several other languages, Vanessa atalanta is also commonly known as the number butterfly. Read all about it in this scene of the third episode of my Garden Soap.

Garden Soap: Episode 3, third scene


The zebra jumping spider, Belgium's Spider of the Year 2005, is all eyes for anything that moves in its immediate vicinity, including macro photographers and their lenses. It is without doubt one of the cutest little creatures in the garden at 37 Heuvelstraat. But the zebra is also an accomplished, fearless hunter that does not hesitate to tackle prey over twice its own size. Learn more about it in this scene of my Garden Soap. Be warned: people have been known to drown in those pretty, pitch-black peepers!

Garden Soap: Episode 3, second scene


Unless you are willing to compositionally amputate the greater part of its limbs, making a compelling photograph of a common harvestman is always a challenge. Find out why in this new scene of my Garden Soap, the greenest soap ever!

Garden Soap: Episode 3, first scene


Australian actress and film producer Nicole Kidman is an avowed lepidopterophobic: butterflies and moths give her the creeps. She is by no means alone. Strange as it may sound, lepidopterophobia is surprisingly common. I am happy to say I don't suffer from it. My only phobia is an irrational – actually, to my mind, well-considered – fear of scissors, but only when handled by hairdressers or members of the opposite sex. Guess that makes me a Freudian psychiatrist's wet dream. My slight case of sicosnipophobia – the fact that there's a word for it is somewhat reassuring – does not keep me from enjoying a relatively normal life. If anything, it helps me to better understand other people's phobias, no matter how outlandish and preposterous they seem to be. So no, Nicole, I won't force you to even peep at this first scene of the third episode of my Garden Soap, featuring the blue-eyed straw grass-veneer. Now put down those scissors…

Garden Soap: Episode 2, final scene


When I woke up this morning, I was informed by my beloved spouse that a shithead had just won the US presidential election. Not a snail, mind you, but a 70-year-old orangutan with mental issues and several personality disorders. More or less your average leader, so no surprises there. If it still feels like a rude wake-up call to you, perhaps you should consider cutting back on those sleeping tablets. Anyway, the final scene of the second episode of my Garden Soap is all about an entirely different class of shitheads. As always, I look forward to your comments and feedback. Till next episode!

Garden Soap: Episode 2, seventh scene


Most of us are familiar with the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. But what about the Red Lion and Sun or the Red Crystal, the other two officially recognized emblems of one of the world's oldest and best known charitable organizations? If you've never even heard of them, this new Garden Soap story is a must-read. If you have, you may well be curious as to how a close-up of a male pied hoverfly drove me to writing this plea.

Garden Soap: Episode 2, sixth scene


A small bluetail copula, caught in the web of a giant cross-orb weaver. Love and Death. Is it just my overheated imagination or is the female damselfly really screaming like a goggle-eyed, terror-stricken teenager in one of those dreadful Hollywood horror movies that so many commercial channels broadcast on Halloween Night? Click this link for more information on this gruesome, spine-tingling and, as always, uncensored Garden Soap scene.

Garden Soap: Episode 2, fourth & fifth scene


These two new Garden Soap scenes report and illustrate my first encounter with an ermine moth of the genus Yponomeuta in the garden at 37 Heuvelstraat. Don't hesitate to comment or leave a message in the Guestbook. It encourages me to keep going.

See you around!

Garden Soap: Episode 2, third scene


From the very start, my short but passionate affair with Mrs Five Legs in the summer of 2010 was bound to end in tragedy. But I have fond memories of the many hours we spent together, quietly conversing about nothing in particular. Though somewhat disappointed with her table manners, I still enjoyed watching her eat the damselflies and grasshoppers she caught, killed and prepared all by herself. She never told me exactly how she had lost three of her gorgeous legs, and I was too coy to ask her. At the time, I didn't know she was pregnant either. But that's another story.

Garden Soap: Episode 2, second scene


Unless you are an easily distracted or absent-minded carpenter, you should be able to count the legs of this wasp spider on the fingers of one hand. Briefly introduced in the pilot episode of Garden Soap, Mrs Five Legs makes a spectacular reappearance. As always, I look forward to al your comments and feedback. Till next time!

Garden Soap: Episode 2, first scene


If you already know what a partial unkenreflex is, chances are that you are either a herpetologist or a wildlife nut like me. Whatever the case, the first scene of the second episode of Garden Soap, featuring a common frog in a tight spot, zooms in on this surprisingly effective amphibian defence mechanism. Look what the cat's dragged in!

Garden Soap: Episode 1, final scene


And so we've come to the final scene of the first episode of Garden Soap, the greenest soap ever. In spite of appearances, it is neither about dragonflies in general nor common darters in particular. It is all about you and me, and our striking inability to resist a broad, genuine smile. Say cheese!

Garden Soap: Episode 1, sixth scene


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: All creatures smaller than a blue whale should come with a QR code. This is certainly true of hoverflies in general and Sphaerophorid hoverflies in particular. Even to a trained eye, many species of this genus look so similar they cannot be identified from a photograph. While I don't mind a bit of arthropod genitalia fiddling for scientific purposes, I am not really into that myself. Consequently, in my Diptera album most of these flies end up as Sphaerophoria sp. The only exception are males of the species S. scripta, commonly known as long hoverflies. Nevertheless, I am pretty confident the specimen in this photograph is a female of that species.

Garden Soap: Episode 1, fifth scene


Remember Hill Street Blues, that great and groundbreaking American serial police drama from way back in the eighties? This new Garden Soap scene presents the blues in the garden at 37 Heuvelstraat, which is Dutch for Hill Street. Sadly, in the Low Countries blues and many other butterfly species are in dire straits. Some are already locally extinct and most are in decline. To quote Sgt. Phil Esterhaus at the end of each roll call: "Hey, let's be careful out there!"

Garden Soap: Episode 1, fourth scene


When you don't use any pesticides, not even those that are allowed in commercial organic farming, even a well-tended vegetable garden will attract myriads of insects and other small fry. Admittedly, some of these creatures, especially many kinds of caterpillars and other larvae, can be a bit of a nuisance, but I've learned to live with them. Sure, they devour my cabbages, mine my carrots and suck the living daylights out of next season's parsnip seeds. But cursing them, I can't help loving them too. Fortunately, most of the pests in our kitchen garden attract natural enemies that somehow manage to keep them more or less under control. There's never a stable equilibrium – in my opinion, life in perfect balance is synonymous with dead –, but it's good enough for me. The pleasure I take in observing and documenting the unremitting struggle for life is simply priceless.

Garden Soap: Episode 1, third scene


According to the Doomsday Clock, ever since January 2015 it is three minutes to midnight. But in Februari 2011, when I wrote the original Dutch version of this Garden Soap scene, the minute hand of that infamous clock was steadily moving from six to the proverbial five minutes to midnight. By January 2012 it was, as the saying goes in Dutch, vijf voor twaalf or five to twelve. Scary, isn't it? Of course we've been told it's five minutes to midnight ever since the publication of the first report of the Club of Rome, of which the current King of Belgium used to be an Honorary President, way back in 1972. We love it, don't we? Rereading The Limits to Growth, to my knowledge the first environmental report to make extensive use of computer models, it is blatantly clear that most of the mid- to long-term predictions were way off the mark. So how reliable or accurate are today's computer generated mid- to long-term forecasts? Well, to quote Master Po in the original Kung Fu TV series: "That is not a puzzle, Grasshopper. It is only something you do not yet know."

Garden Soap: Episode 1, second scene


In Europe, the species of orangist commonly known as orangemen is endemic to the British Isles, particularly Northern Ireland. Except for rare vagrants, orangemen occur in neither Belgium nor the Netherlands. Two other species of the same genus, however, are native to the Low Countries. Even though hybrids of all species of orangists are both viable and fertile, most taxonomists still treat them as true species, effectively separated by a lot of nonsense. To a layman, they may look identical, but experts can usually tell them apart at first glance. The second scene of the first episode of Garden Soap helps you to identify the northern and southern orangists that roam the Dutch-speaking part of the Benelux. Incidentally, you may also learn a thing or two about the small bluetail, a pioneer damselfly of garden ponds and pools.

Garden Soap: Episode 1, first scene


A close encounter of the third kind with
Coccinella septempunctata. Meanwhile, Harmonia axyridis appears to have vanished into thin air. Has the multicoloured menace abated? Find out more on Garden Soap, the greenest soap ever, and discover exactly how a harlequin got lost in translation!

Up and running!

Today is the official launching day of this English version of my site on the biodiversity in the garden at 37 Heuvelstraat in Geraardsbergen (Belgium). Translating over 120 pages from Dutch was hard but rewarding work. I can't thank my American friend Jane Frankel enough for proofreading my translations and revising my attempts at writing intelligible contemporary English prose. You're a gem, Jane!

Species galleries: who's who in the garden?

The site is and will always be a work in progress. At present, it features over 700 species of animals, plants and fungi. All sections and subsections already have species galleries that are regularly updated. Clicking a thumbnail in a species gallery will take you to a page on the species concerned. Currently, that page only has some taxonomic information and photographs. In coming years, I will add more information, drawing on the relevant literature as well as my personal observations and experience. For identification purposes, however, in many cases the species galleries already are of great help.

Introductions: nothing to be scared of!

Eventually, all sections and subsections will also have an introduction. The following already do:
While the species galleries encourage swift and conceivably mindless browsing, the introductions require good old-fashioned slow and focused reading. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know, but the audience I have in mind when writing the introductions should enjoy them. I am as averted to tedious and totally superfluous introductions as the next guy, but the ones on this site are nothing like that. They are of an entirely different and, if I say so myself, rather idiosyncratic nature. Just give it a go.

Garden Soap: the greenest soap ever!

Garden Soap is a collection of quirkily annotated scenes from the garden, presented in separate episodes. While the Dutch site already has seven episodes, this English version currently only presents the pilot episode. In coming weeks, scene by scene, I'll translate and upload the missing episodes. Each Garden Soap episode also has a Disqus comment box, encouraging and facilitating site visitor interaction.

The sidebar icons provide links to the history of
the site, the history of the garden and the history of yours truly. There is also a Contact page and a page with some of my favourite, site-related websites. But enough already. Have fun exploring the site and don't hesitate to let me know what you think of it. And just in case you are wondering why I chose a .eu top-level domain for this English version: Yes, the European Union truly sucks, but it doesn't suck even half as bad as anything that came before it. Now that Little Britain's opted out, the rest of us can finally move on.

See you at 37 Heuvelstraat!