Connect with nature from your home

10 ways to connect with nature without leaving your home this spring

The Wildlife Trusts, a UK movement made up of 46 wildlife charities, has compiled a list of ways to tune into the season from your home.

“Spring has arrived in splendid colour and sound,” said Kirsty Paterson from The Wildlife Trusts. “Over the past few days, hundreds of people have told us that they’ve spotted their first butterflies. These are moments of connection with nature that people find uplifting and comforting.”


 

Mass bee die-offs – Brazil’s pesticide boom

Bees are sentinels’: “mass bee die-offs signal the wider impact of Brazil’s pesticide boom”

“The footage is unpleasant to watch: thousands of bees writhe, disoriented, on the ground in front of their hive. The dead bodies of thousands more lie beneath them.

But the smell, said beekeeper Aldo Machado, is even worse.

“Dead bees smell like dead rats,” he said. “The smell is very strong, it really is. It’s like any other meat.”

Half a billion bees are estimated to have died from December 2018 to January 2019 in southern Brazil. Machado, vice-president of Rio Grande do Sul’s beekeeping society, has been hearing reports of die-offs since 2013.

Machado sent samples of his bees for analysis, which showed that they were contaminated with an insecticide called fipronil, commonly used to control ants and termites on soy crops.”

See the full report…
https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2020/02/27/bee-die-offs-soya-brazil-pesticide-boom-biodiverisity-agriculture/

Testing products which help (?) bees

Bees and wildlife are much in the public eye these days, with frequent media reports of declines.  In the UK, for example, approximately 70% of the land area is used for agriculture. Clearly, helping wildlife at a national level requires agricultural land to play a major role and there are various encouragements for this, with funding opportunities like the Countryside Stewardship scheme (Supplement 1) (244 separate grants including for ‘badger gates’, ‘beetle banks’, and ‘autumn sown bumble bee mix’) and advice and support from organisations such as LEAF (Supplement 2) (Linking Environment and Farming).

What can the general public do?  A plethora of products such as nest boxes, feeding stations and wildlife friendly seeds are available to purchase on-line and in garden centres.  Internet shopping websites such as Amazon UK list over 10,000 products for bees in their Garden and Outdoors section.

Here we take a close look at a number of these products which are specifically designed to help bees and other insects: bee hotels, bee bricks, bee and butterfly seed balls, and ladybird and butterfly houses. Our investigation uses a number of approaches, including expert responses and scientific research results….

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0005772X.2019.1702271

Cambridge College lawn becomes a wildflower meadow

A famous University of Cambridge view is set for a change as a pristine lawn maintained for centuries is transformed into a wildflower meadow.

King’s College Chapel and its sloping lawn down to the River Cam have become one of the city’s best-known images.  It is popular with tourists, featuring in thousands of Instagram posts, and is widely used to promote the city.

Head gardener Steve Coghill said it was hoped the meadow would bloom in May and create a “biodiversity-rich ecosystem”….

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-51179488

Too many honey bees threaten wild bee numbers

Come springtime the Brussels region’s environment agency Bruxelles Environnement will take up the beehives it manages at nature sites in Brussels, and remove them permanently.

The move forms part of a plan by the region to tackle the recent huge growth in members of the public keeping bees – a trend inspired by concerns about pollution, climate and biodiversity. Bees have become something of a mascot for this movement, in part because they are an excellent barometer of environmental conditions, and in part because of their crucial role in maintaining biodiversity.

But it’s possible to have too much biodiversity, and the honey bee – a variety essentially created by Man for Man – now represents a threat to its wild cousin….

https://www.brusselstimes.com/brussels-2/90095/brussels-wants-to-stop-unfettered-growth-in-beehives-wild-honey-biodiversity-hives-pollution-climate-apiarist/

Rate of Insect Decline

John  Hopkins.  British Wildlife Oct 2019  Volume 32 No 1
https://www.britishwildlife.com/back-issues/british-wildlife-311-october-2019

This is a review of insect decline.  The research was based on 73 studies of insect declines each covering a time period of 10 years or more.

Conclusions :-

  • The rate of insect declined  is twice that reported for mammals.
  • About one third of insects  are threatened with extinction in the countries studied.
  • Rates of decline  in aquatic species are higher than for terrestial species.
  • Many insect communities are  shifting  towards species poor collections of generalists and pollution tolerant species are dominating many fresh waters.
  • Not only specialists with  narrow ecological requirements are being lost but also some once common generalists.
  • The rate of decline for the UK was 60%, higher than the global rate of 41% and the 44% decline in Europe as a whole.

As well as pollination, insects also control pests, play a key role in decomposition , nutrient cycling, and soil aeration and are food for many other animals.

The largest driver of change was loss and conversion of habitats to intensive  agriculture or development.  The second most important factor is identified as pollution by synthetic pesticides and  fertilisers, significantly more influential than climate change.


 

Verge Cutting – Hertfordshire progress?

Hertfordshire County Council is taking action on verge cutting.  Is this enough?  What about other County Councils?


Roadside verges could become home to wildflowers and the pollinators that feed on them, after Hertfordshire County Council agreed to test a new approach to grass cutting along the county’s roads.
Around 70 roadside verges in rural areas will be cut in a different way to encourage the growth of wildflowers. These areas will be cut only once a year, between mid-July and mid-August, with the grass cuttings removed. This will allow for the growth, flowering and seeding of wildflowers, as well as preventing the verges from being dominated by more aggressive plant species. This will provide an ideal habitat for bees and other pollinating insects.
The new approach to grass cutting will start in 2020, although it will take at least two years before the first wildflowers appear. Some verges may appear overgrown or unmaintained in the first year, but this a natural part of the new habitat establishing itself.
This new approach will contribute to the Sustainable Hertfordshire strategy – the county council’s ambitious programme to improve sustainability in the county.
The verges that will be cut in this way have been identified using wildlife and ecology data. They are mostly areas that have a medium to high quality of vegetation and diversity of species, and so are most likely to successfully establish themselves as wildflower habitats.
For safety reasons, verges in urban areas, and around rural junctions and bends in the road, will continue to be cut in the same way as before.

Hertfordshire County Council cuts approximately 6,500,000 square meters of roadside verges.  Hertfordshire County Council declared a climate emergency in July 2019 and has committed itself to developing an ambitious programme to improve sustainability in the county


 

Pesticides found to starve fish ‘astoundingly fast’

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. … ”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/31/fishery-collapse-confirms-silent-spring-pesticide-prophecy