I’M thinking of renaming the house Badger Hall. A week or two ago, I found signs of scraping, and a scattering of earth in the mossy grass at the top of our garden. There’s a bee’s nest underground, with a small round entrance from which they emerge as if blasted from a pea shooter. Last year wasps nested here. They were a tetchy lot, best tiptoed around. The russety and fat-bellied bees now occupying this address are much nicer company, and evidence, surely, of the area’s gentrification.

I tidied up, and thought little of it. Having coffee with a friend a few doors away, I saw that she too had come under minor attack, near her honeysuckled trellis. Reaching for another home-baked cheese scone, I reflected that it’s rather pleasant knowing that animals are wandering between our gardens, using the hedges as underpasses.

A few days later, on my morning inspection of the garden before settling down to work in the summerhouse, I stopped short. In the same spot, which previously had been an attractive corner of grass and clover overhung by a silver birch, now there was a building site. It was as if a digger had been at work overnight. Earth and stone were heaped high, and there was a hole the size of Oor Wullie’s bucket, revealing layers of severed roots the way the blitz exposed the insides of tenement flats.

Dazed honeybees were crawling and flying low over their ground zero. Not only the comb had gone, but most of their companions too. When I called Alan to come and see, he was stunned. “That’s industrial,” he said at last. “I’d have trouble digging that.” He dropped two field boulders into the cavity, and scraped earth over them, hoping that this would deter further excavation. Meanwhile, after surviving the first attack, the bees now seem to have deserted us. Nobody could blame them.

There is, of course, only one prime suspect. But who knew badgers have a sweet tooth? When Michael Russell, as Minister for the Environment, authorised the trial reintroduction of beavers, I was thrilled. But had he at the same time, unbeknownst to anyone, also let loose bears? There could be a den of them in the woods, which are so thick around here they’d never be detected.

An event like this makes you appreciate just how much badgers and bears have in common. Apart from a love of honey, and its tasty producers – bees to them are what Callard and Bowsers are to connoisseurs of toffee – they have claws you wouldn’t mess with. Watching footage of them digging, their power and energy is startling. If Scottish Water could put a team of them to work, they’d reach burst pipes and clear clogged ditches in minutes.

Some years ago, I took part in a badger watching expedition on the banks of the Clyde at New Lanark. Our guide showed us their tracks and latrines and then we got into place behind trees, to wait. Eventually, as darkness fell, the animals emerged into the leafy undergrowth, and began rootling around, the younger badgers in the adults’ wake. It was like seeing E H Shephard’s illustrations in The Wind in the Willows come alive. As they drew closer, you half expected them to be wearing spectacles or a nightcap.

Whether they are as wise and kindly as Kenneth Grahame’s character, I do not know. But they are certainly tenacious. Looking up from the devastated hive, I stared out across the field, to the acre of trees, where I suspected the badger – or perhaps the badger crew – was waiting for dusk before heading our way again. Neighbours tramped through the nettles to peer over our fence, and were astonished. They’d never seen them dig a hole that big.

While they were looking on, both appalled and admiring, they forgot they had not closed their gate. Behind their backs, four chunky lambs sneaked into their garden. Soon after we heard the cries as they were discovered. Rounded up, the animals trotted back into the field, munching, having set upon beds of strawberries and rhubarb. It was a rare lapse of vigilance, because our friends know better than most the damage intruders can do. Once, in a previous house, they lost 80 young rose bushes overnight when rabbits raided. Few know more about chicken wire, and they helpfully told us the nearest supplier.

The problem is, the wire wrapping our fences has not only been dug under, but bitten through in several places. As well as claws, these creatures have teeth as sharp as wire cutters. Among the A-list of our predators, they are a formidable foe if you have something they want. During the debate on badger culling some farmers, trying to strengthen the argument for killing them, pointed to their habit of eating bees. Doubtless they hoped to win the popular vote, this being one of the few species that almost everyone recognises as endangered.

It seems most folk who have farmland or live in the country have seen the damage badgers can do to honeycombs. Scientific evidence seems to suggest, though, that bees continue to thrive despite marauders, those that survive simply moving elsewhere and starting again. Compared to the harm done to them by pesticides and changing climate, badgers are the least of their worries.

The following morning, another long-term Hoolet resident was crossing the field with her glossy young labrador, which snuffled for mice while we chatted. One winter, she told us, a badger slept in her hay barn, in the loose hay behind the bales stored to feed her horses. She pointed in the direction of the hills where, she said, there is a large and old badger sett. In terms of distance, our garden, and those alongside, are probably among their first ports of call when heading out for dinner.

Now, when I head out to the garden in the morning, mug of tea in hand, I brace myself for further assaults. Yet there is a twinge of disappointment when there is no sign of our night-time visitors. I like the thought that while we sleep they are prowling around, taking what they need. Even though they have ruined any chance of turning the grass into a croquet lawn, it’s their patch as much as ours.

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