Report from The Guardian:-
“The Silent Spring prophecy that pesticides could “still the leaping of fish” has been confirmed, according to scientists investigating the collapse of fisheries in Japan. They say similar impacts are likely to have occurred around the world.
The long-term study showed an immediate plunge in insect and plankton numbers in a large lake after the introduction of neonicotinoid pesticides to rice paddies. This was rapidly followed by the collapse of smelt and eel populations, which had been stable for decades but rely on the tiny creatures for food. … ”
Invasive non-native Asian hornets ( Vespa velutina) have been sighted in the UK since 2016. It is important to be able to distinguish them from our native Eurpoean hornets ( Vespa crabro).
According to Jess Chappell from the RSPB’s nature policy team, these are the distinguishing features to look out for:-
Our native European hornet has a brown and yellow striped abdomen and an orangey brown thorax and head. The Asian hornet has a black thorax, an orangey brown head and a mostly dark abdomen with a yellow/orange 4th abdominal segment.
The legs of European hornets are dark but the Asian hornets have bright yellow tips to their legs
Asian hornets are smaller than European hornets (European queens up to 35mm; Asian queens up to 30mm)
Asian hornets are day-flying insects and are not active at night whereas our native European hornets are active at night.
The invasive non-native Asian hornet is an aggressive predator of pollinating insects, including honeybees and wasps. It does not pose any greater risk to humans than our native hornets or bees but we are advised not to disturb a suspected nest . It was first found in France in 2004 and subsequently found in Jersey. It is now on the UK mainland and was first sighted in Gloucester and Somerset in September 2016: the latest sighting was in October 2019 in Dorset.
The UK government is keen to stop this non-native hornet becoming established in the UK. If established it could cause significant losses to bee colonies and potentially other native pollinating insects. We are asked to report any suspected sightings. New queens emerge from hibernation in February so this will be the time to be vigilant. The hornets are active from February to November.
Sightings should be reported to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at email@example.com with location details and a photo if possible. Or fill out the report form on their website.
The NNSS ( the Non-native Species secretariat) has downloadable information sheets on their website www.nonnativespecies.org
The British Beekeepers Association also has information and an Asian Hornet incursion map on www.bbka.org.uk/asian-hornet-incursion-map
The State of Nature, a summary for Wales:-
“Changing agricultural management has had the biggest single impact upon nature in recent decades.
Our measure of species’ distribution, covering a broad range of plants, invertebrates and vertebrates, has declined since 1970, with more species decreasing than increasing. The rate of this change in nature appears to be increasing: our statistics indicate that over the last decade nearly half of the species for which we have data have shown strong changes in distribution. 8% of species in Wales are threatened with extinction.”
Full report summary:-
The State of Nature Report 2019-Summary
The charity Plantlife says “An astonishing number of wild plants grow on our road verges, some of which are threatened or near threatened. Proper management of verges is critical if these species are to avoid extinction. Includes a list of known plants found on a road verge in the UK.”
“Of the 1,596 species we looked at 724 or 45.3% grow on verge habitats. If we add in hedgerow and ditch habitats, the total rises to 809 species or over 50.7% of our flora.”
Guardian newspaper report:-
“Britain could enjoy 400bn more flowers if road verges were cut later and less often according to guidelines drawn up by wildlife charities, highways authorities and contractors.
The national guidance for managing roadside verges for wildflowers calls for just two cuts a year – instead of four or more – and only after flowers have set seed, to restore floral diversity and save councils money. It would also provide grassland habitat the size of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh combined.
The recommendations have been produced by the wildlife charity Plantlife, backed by national highways agencies, the industry bodies Skanska and Kier, as well as Natural England and other environmental groups.”
“The Pollinator Monitoring and Research Partnership (PMRP) aims to establish how insect pollinator populations are changing across Great Britain.
We are working with existing recording schemes that focus on pollinating insects, and have established new large-scale surveys under the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme banner (PoMS)
PoMS is the only scheme in the world generating systematic data on the abundance of bees, hoverflies and other flower-visiting insects at a national scale (currently across England, Wales and Scotland). Together with long-term occurrence records collated by the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society and Hoverfly Recording Scheme, these data will form an invaluable resource from which to measure trends in pollinator populations and target our conservation efforts.
With reports of dramatic losses of insects occurring across the globe, and concern about what this means for wider biodiversity and ecosystem health, there has never been a more important time to document evidence of change in populations of pollinating insects.
FIT Counts: if you can spare ten minutes to sit and watch insects and flowers you can carry out a FIT Count (Flower-Insect Timed Count)! This simple survey collects data on the total number of insects that visit a particular flower, ideally chosen from our list of 14 target flowers. FIT Counts can be done anywhere, including gardens and parks, in warm, dry weather any time from April to September. If you can carry out several counts at one location during that time you will be adding extra value to your survey records. All the information you need is provided on their web site:”
The Guardian newspaper reports – “The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.
More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.”
Scientist Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rican rainforest after 35 years to find 98% of ground insects had vanished. A “bottom-up trophic cascade”, in which the knock-on effects of the insect collapse surge up through the food chain.
“I don’t think most people have a systems view of the natural world,” Lister said. “But it’s all connected and when the invertebrates are declining the entire food web is going to suffer and degrade. It is a system-wide effect.”
To understand the global scale of an insect collapse that has so far only been glimpsed, Lister says, there is an urgent need for much more research in many more habitats. “More data, that is my mantra,” he said.
The problem is that there were very few studies of insect numbers in past decades to serve as a baseline, but Lister is undeterred: “There’s no time like the present to start asking what’s going on.”
A trend of planting wildflowers on solar sites could maintain habitat for disappearing bees and butterflies. A Scientific American article …