BITING the bullet, I am going to ask, “Has anyone else had a problem with fleas this year?” as I am sorry to admit that we have. That’s not to say that we weren’t already using well-respected, branded treatments for both dogs and cats.

Treatments that have stood us in good stead for many years, but it would appear that this year, they have developed a resistance to the active product.

Izzy Cavalier was the only one noticeably scratching, but her mum Jennifer had been seen biting at her legs a fair bit. On the other paw, Izzy’s brother Brigadier, appeared to be unaffected.

On closer inspection, tell-tale black specks of dirt were found on all dogs but not, interestingly, on the cats.

To double check that the black specks were in fact flea dirt, I used the tried and tested method of brushing them on to white kitchen paper and adding a drop of water. Sure enough, the black specks turned red, providing the confirmation that I really did not want.

On reflection, though, an itchy problem caused by fleas is one of the more simple ills to treat and it’s not as if I hadn’t been trying to combat them.

The vet was very understanding, not to mention expensive, and happily, six weeks later, it would appear that the problem has finally been resolved.

Also, as an added precaution on vet’s advice, the house has been treated as well, so hopefully, we are now a flea-free zone. Izzy is no longer scratching, Jennifer is not chewing her legs and there are no black specks on tummies or around the base of tails. Mission accomplished.

On the subject of mini beasties, on a happier note, I recently purchased some caterpillars from Amazon, for my youngest granddaughter’s sixth birthday.

Last year I had given Maisie a complete butterfly set-up which included, besides caterpillars, a custom-built butterfly habitat where they can hatch and grow acclimatised before release.

This was such a huge success that this year I felt a caterpillar refill would be well received, and it certainly was.

The caterpillars were duly delivered directly to my daughter’s address, just in time for Maisie’s birthday; how times have changed. When I was six, I had to collect my caterpillars from the allotments at the end of the road and sadly, I never had any success in raising them into butterflies.

These little guys, however, came in a sealed pot complete with all the caterpillar food that they would need to grow fat.

A delighted Maisie watched avidly as the caterpillars grew visibly, on a daily basis, and as her class were doing a project on mini- beasts, they even paid a visit to school.

Proudly Maisie carried the small caterpillar pot into the playground where she was soon surrounded by her friends “Careful…,” her mum heard her say sternly, as little folk crowded around, “Don’t make me wobble, they might be sick.”

Happily, the caterpillars all ate their fill and four of the five eventually made their way up to the top of the pot, where they each formed a chrysalis.

It was at this point that the chrysalises were transferred into the butterfly habitat, and two weeks later, as if by magic, four exquisite painted ladies emerged from their cocoons.

For a couple of days, the butterflies stayed in their secure habitat, but once they had grown accustomed to their wings, they were ready for release.

While talking to the girls shortly afterwards, a small colourful shape fluttered past.

“Look,” gasped Bethany, “A painted lady. Do you think it’s one of ours? She’s flying quite low to the ground and that’s what they do when you first let them go.”

“Could very well be,” replied her mum, “Could very well be.”