Category Archives: Insects

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

Surveying

We need more data on bees and other insects :-

Bumblebee Conservation Trust
https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/surveys/
An overview of survey opportunities.

BeeWalk
https://www.beewalk.org.uk/
Count bumblebees seen once a month on a 2km walk.

UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS).
https://www.ceh.ac.uk/our-science/projects/pollinator-monitoring
Count the number of insects visiting a patch of flowers for 10 minutes.
Flower-Insect Timed Count (FIT Count).

iRecord
https://www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/enter-casual-record
Record seeing a single species.

iSpot
https://www.ispotnature.org/
Get help identifing a single species.

SEWBReC South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre
http://www.sewbrec.org.uk/
Enter records of species seen in South East Wales.

Wales Biodiversity Partnership
https://www.biodiversitywales.org.uk/Monitoring

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Promote wildlife and have a profitable arable farm

Farmers Weekly 11th Sept 20 has an article about an RSPB owned commercial arable farm.

In 2019, the farm was benchmarked against other local farm businesses and though crops varied in profitability, this was typical compared to the other farms.

!n 2019, the farm went completely insecticide free and saw no reduction in yields compared with previous years, making small savings on the products.

One quote:-
“Though we had aphids in the beans last year, there were loads of ladybirds and larvae too, and within 10 days there were only ladybirds left and the beans didn’t suffer at all,”

The farm is planting wildflower corridors through fields to increase access to beneficial insects, compost spreading and sowing cover crops as part of the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology and Rothamsted Research’s Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Systems programme.

https://www.fwi.co.uk/news/environment/how-to-make-wildlife-conservation-with-profitable-arable-farming