There is a remarkable hill on the downs near Lewes in Susses, known by the name of Mount Carburn, which over-looks that town, & affords a most engaging prospect of all the country round, besides several views of the sea. On the very summit of this exalted promontory, & amidst the trenched of its Danish camp, there haunts a species of wild Bee, making it’s nest in the chalk soil. When people approach the place, these insects begin to be alarmed, & with a sharp & hotile sound dash, & strike round the heads & faces of intruders. I have often been interrupted myself while contemplating the grandeur of the scenery around me, & have thought myself in danger of being stung:– and have heard my Brother Benjamin say, that he & his daughter Rebecca were driven from the spot by the fierce menaces of these angry insects. In old days Mr Hay of Glynd Bourn, the Author of Deformity, & other works, wrote a loco-descriptive poem on the beauties of Mount Carburn.
There is a natural occurance to be met with upon the highest part of our down on hot summer days, which always amuses me much, without giving me any satisfaction with respect to the cause of it; & that is a loud audible humming of bees in the air, tho’ not one insect is to be seen. This sound is to be heard distinctly the whole common through, from the Money-dells, to Mr White’s avenue-gate. Any person would suppose that a large swarm of bees was in motion, & playing about over his head. This noise was heard last week on June 28th.
“Resounds the lving surface of the ground,
Nor undelightful is the ceasless hum
To him who muses… at noon.”
“Thick in yon stream of light a thousand was,
Upward, and downward, thwarting, & convolv’d,
The quivering nations sport.”
Bad weather for the hops, & pickers. When the boys bring me wasps nests, my Bantam fowls fare deliciously; & when the combs are pulled to pieces, devour the young wasps intheir maggot-state with the highest glee, and delight. Any inscet-eating bird would do the same: & therefore I have often wondered that the accurate Mr Ray should call one species of buzzard Buteo apivorus, sive vespivorus, or the Honey-buzzard, because some combs of wasps happened to be found in one fo their nests. The combs were conveyed thither doubtless for the sake of the maggots or nymphs, & not for their honey; since none is to be found in the combs of wasps. Birds of prey occasionally feed on insects: thus have I seen a tame kite picking up the female ants, full of eggs, with much satisfaction.
Trenched four rows of celeri, good streight plants. Lime trees in full bloom. Large honey-dews on my great oak, that attract the bees, which swarm upon it. Some wheat is much lodged by the wind & rain. There is reason to fear from the coldness & wetness of the season that the crop will not be good. Windy, wet, cold solstices are never favourable to wheat, because they interrupt the bloom, & shake it off before it has perfomred it’s function.
This day has been at Selborne the honey market: for a person from Chert came over with a cart, to whom all the villagers round about brought their hives, & sold their contents. This year has proved a good one to the upland bee-gardens, but not to those near the forest. Combs were sold last year at about 3 3/4d per pound; this year from 3 1/2-4d. Women pick up acorns, & sell them for 1s pr bushel. A splendid meteor seen at half hour past six in the evening; but not so large as that on the 18th of August.
Apis longicornis swarms in my walk down Baker’s hill, & bores the ground full of holes, both in the grass, & brick-walk. Peat begins to be brought in. On this day there was a great thunder-storm in London. Probably much rain fell this day at some distance to the S.W. While the thunder was about, the stone pavement in some parts of the entry & kitchen sweated & stood in drops of water. The farmers say, that the chafers, which abound in some parts, fall off the hedges & the trees on the sheeps backs, where being entangled in the wooll they die, & being blown by flies, fill the sheep with maggots. The epidemic disorder rages in an alarming manner in our fleet. Sr John L. Ross has left the N. sea, & is returned to the downs, not being able to continue his cruize on account of the general sickness of his crews.