Category Archives: Insects

Advice on Neonics rejected

The Observer newspaper says :- “the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has decided to waive restrictions on the use of a class of highly dangerous powerful toxins and permit their release on crops. Neonicotinoids have been described as the Novichok of bees: a single teaspoon is sufficient to kill more than a billion, say scientists.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jan/29/the-observer-view-on-the-uks-toxic-stance-on-sugar-farming

Can you add your dots for pollinators to B-Lines?

From the Monmouthshire Meadows newsletter. www.monmouthshiremeadows.org.uk

“Pollinators, other insects and the wildlife that depends on them need connected flower-rich habitats to feed, breed and thrive.

We’ve been asked if we can help Bug Life with their ambitious B-Lines project. The aim is to establish a 3km wide, mapped, insect superhighway across UK towns and countryside with north-south and east-west highways in each county. In the countryside this can include wildflower-rich meadows, scrub mosaics, species-rich hedgerows, wetlands, heathland and native woodland. In more built-up environments it may include pollinator friendly and chemical free gardens, ponds, parks, window boxes, green roofs or living walls.  Over 2,500 dots have been added to the B-Lines map by individuals, businesses, local authorities, farmers and more, with over 3,500 hectares of wildflower habitat work completed, but they need more to achieve their ambitious aim.  
 
Anyone who has enhanced or created habitat for pollinators can add their site to the map, to identify existing corridors and show areas where there is a potential to join sites. At MMG we have added our reserves, and I’ve added our home fields to the map. It is already starting to show a number of dots around Monmouthshire. It would give Bug Life a boost if we were able to add some more.  “

Here’s the link to information and the option to add your site on the interactive map
https://www.buglife.org.uk/our-work/b-lines/

The Importance of Pollinators

Buglife says “One out of every three mouthfuls of our food depends on pollinators. It is almost impossible to over-emphasise the importance of the service pollinators perform for us.

Many plants rely on insects to pollinate their flowers and so complete their reproductive cycle – most plants cannot set seed without being pollinated (receiving the pollen, usually from another flower). Without bees, hoverflies and other insects visiting flowers, there would be no strawberries, apples, avocados, chocolate, cherries, olives, blueberries, carrots, grapes, pumpkins, pears, plums or peanuts…. And very few flowers in our gardens and countryside.

It is estimated that 84% of EU crops (valued at £12.6 billion) and 80% of wildflowers rely on insect pollination…”

https://www.buglife.org.uk/bugs/featured-bugs/pollinators/

Sixty years after the book that launched environmental movement there is still Government’s inaction on pesticides.

The national charity Buglife says – “The UK Government’s “dither and delay” approach to pesticide policy continues to put the health of our natural world at serious risk, sixty years after author Rachel Carson first sounded the alarm about the hidden harms of these toxic chemicals in her book “Silent Spring”.

On the 60th anniversary of the ground-breaking exposé, experts in The Pesticide Collaboration are calling out the UK Government for failing to adequately protect human health and the environment from pesticides. Since official records began in 1990, the UK has covered over 700 million hectares in pesticides – enough to douse every inch of the UK 14 times over. Meanwhile, pesticides linked to cancer are still routinely used in parks and playgrounds by local councils, up and down the country… “

https://www.buglife.org.uk/news/sixty-years-later-book-that-launched-environmental-movement-exposes-governments-inaction-on-pesticides/

B-Lines


B-Lines are a UK-wide network of wildflower rich areas for insects and other wildlife. They are being developed by Buglife –

www.buglife.org.uk

New B-Lines are being created in Newport (and Neath Port-Talbot) and there are existing routes though all of Monmouthshire. Pollinators will benefit, including rare species such as the Shrill Carder bee and Long-horned bee which can be found in Monmouthshire.

Silent Earth the Insect Apocalypse

“Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse” Dave Goulson, Aug 2021

In this book Professor Goulson examines the dramatic decline in insects, the vital services they perform, the potential causes and possible solutions.
Insects pollinate three quarters of our crops, recycle dung, leaves and corpses, keep the soil healthy and control pests. Birds and fish rely on insects for food. We cannot function without them yet their decline is estimated as 75% in the past 50 years.
A study of nature reserves in Germany from 1989 to 2016 recorded a 75% fall in weight of insects caught in traps. A 10 year grasslands study showed an average two-thirds loss of weight in the insects, spiders, woodlice etc. Common UK butterfly abundance fell by 46% in 40 years.
There is little worldwide systematic monitoring of insects but the decline of insect eating birds shows the trend. North American insect eating birds have declined by 40% in 47 years with swallows and swifts numbers falling by 70% in 20 years. Similar declines are shown in the very limited studies from Africa, Asia and South America. At what point will there be a catastrophic failure in our environment?
The book reviews causes of the insect decline, habitat loss and fragmentation, pesticides and herbicides, farming practices and climate change. Agricultural change is required to manage these problems plus a change in Western life style and eating choices. This book makes a major contribution to raising awareness.

Plants flowering early affect pollinators

Article in the Conversation web site:-
“Plants are flowering about a month earlier in the UK due to climate change. That’s according scientists at the University of Cambridge, who recently analysed the first flowering dates of 406 species and found a link to warmer temperatures in spring….

The problem is that climate change may increase the chance of plants and pollinators becoming out of sync, with plants flowering too early in the year for the insects that pollinate them….

In evolutionary biology, this is known as a “temporal mismatch”. Insects that are used to a feasting on April-flowering plants may find themselves arriving a month late if warmer temperatures mean that the plants now flower in March…

If earlier flowering reduces pollination, that would in turn reduce reproductive success and crop yields. Pollinators themselves could also be at risk, since earlier flowering could lead to gaps in resources like pollen and nectar leaving bees to go hungry… “

https://theconversation.com/plants-are-flowering-a-month-earlier-heres-what-it-could-mean-for-pollinating-insects-176324?

Solar parks could provide habitats for wildlife

Guardian newspaper report:-

“Solar parks could provide habitats for wildlife – and particularly bumblebees – to flourish, if managed in the right way, benefiting farmers and nature, new research suggests…..

If solar park owners were encouraged to use the land to sow wildflowers alongside the solar panels, they could become valuable habitats for pollinators, research from Lancaster University has found. Managing them in this way would boost bumblebee numbers beyond the borders of the parks, to about 1km (0.6 miles) away, benefiting farmers who rely on bees to pollinate their crops…. “

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/13/solar-parks-could-be-used-to-boost-bumblebee-numbers-study-suggests

Honeybees use social distancing when mites threaten hives

Guardian newspaper report:-

“In the past 18 months humans have become all too familiar with the term “social distancing”. But it turns out we are not the only ones to give our peers a wide berth when our health may be at risk: research suggests honeybees do it too.

By examining videos recorded inside the hives, the team found that when the hive is infested with mites, foraging bees – which tend to be older members of the colony – performed important dances to indicate the direction of food sources, such as the waggle dance, away from the centre of the colony where the young bees, the queen and brood cells are found….”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/29/honeybees-use-social-distancing-when-mites-threaten-hives-study

Why do we need insects?

  1. To pollinate 87% of plants. 75% crops need insect pollination.
  2. Recycle dung, leaves, corpses.
  3. Keep soils healthy.
  4. Control pests, though they can also be pests.
  5. Food for larger animals eg. fish. Crickets are 12 times more efficient than cows in converting vegetation into digestible body mass, produce little or no methane and use 55 times less water.
  6. Insects are in all food chains.

Problems –

German nature reserve studies – over 27 years the insect biomass has dropped by 75%. Forest and grassland had a 40% drop over 10 years.
UK butterflies – over 41 years a 46% drop in common species numbers. 77% drop in rare species numbers.
US studies – 70% drop in insectivorous birds in 20 years.

Source:- Dave Goulson “Silent Earth” 2021