Almost wordless! The Wildlife Trusts #30 Days Wild challenge each June encourages folk to make room for nature in our lives and do something wild each day, we did not climb mountains but this first week we ate a picnic lunch in a field of Buttercups at Hatfield Forest, spent a balmy evening at Wicken Fen, amongst wildflowers and Dragonflies, lolled about watching early Bumblebees in our own garden and took dog walks in fields with Ghost Moths for company. Its about taking time to reconnect in the natural world. Twas lovely! And anyone can join in at anytime.
Inspired by Tammy’s Casa Mariposa blog, I have been trying for some time to compile a list of UK Garden Centres and Nurseries which sell plants without neonics – systemic insecticide use. I am failing. The RHS were unable to help – despite selling a licensed logo “Perfect for Pollinators” This isn’t regulated – plants can be treated with neonicintoid insecticides and still carry the label.
Neonics, used to kill off insects by commercial growers deemed to be aesthetically harmful to a plant, stay within the plant – that same systemic insecticide is able to kill the very pollinators it’s labelled to attract. Which is beyond stupid. Laced with hidden toxic chemicals enticing us to buy the perfect plant we are creating a pollinator death trap. Dave Goulson reports “Neonics in soil can persist for years. They can also last for several years once inside perennial plants. Once you have them in your garden there is no known way to get rid of them, other than waiting many years for them to slowly break down.”
“They are tremendously toxic to insects; just one teaspoon of neonic is enough to give a lethal dose to 1 ¼ billion honeybees.”
There has been much debate on the use of neonics on farmland crops – the soil association reports “around 95% of chemicals do not get into the crop but instead get into soils and are absorbed by wildflowers, hedges, trees and streams”. Its acknowledged now these insecticides play a large part in killing our Honeybees. But these same insecticides kill our earthworms, wild bees, bumblebees and other pollinators including Butterflies, Moths and Hoverflies, and even the birds who feed on these insects.
Two months ago I chipped into a twitter debate, which lobbied the RHS to do something about the lack of testing on plants carrying a label they endorse and sell. Led by John Walker and Kevin Thomas, The Natural Bee Keeping Trust and Dave Goulson, Scientist, Sussex University lecturer, Bee champion, founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and author. This resulted in a change of wording by the RHS. “…..been grown in accordance with all relevant UK and EU legislation and regulation, including the use of pesticides and the current ban on neonicotinoids” However, in reality, the ban is applicable to farm crops not commercial garden plant growers.
Yesterday Dave Goulson launched a crowd funding appeal which aims to test garden plants for neonics, to find the ones which are truly safe or not, then lobby for garden centres to sell plants which are genuinely good for bees and other pollinators. Those that are safe would be sold as neonic-free. He is a measured man, not a ranter or crank, a scientist, who acts on scientific evidence. Hence the need to carry out tests. Greenpeace have already tested garden plants on the EU mainland and found neonics.
Without pollinators, we would not eat Strawberries, Apples or Chocolate, amongst many others. Without pollinators we would see very few flowers in our Gardens or on Countryside walks. Buglife report it’s estimated that 84% of EU crops (valued at £12.6 billion) and 80% of wildflowers rely on insect pollination.
As gardeners we are uniquely placed to really help our beleaguered pollinators and impact how this knocks on into the wildlife food chain and ecosystems. We can make a genuine difference. If we carry on planting plants laced with toxic chemicals then its quite frightening how empty, devoid and unhappy our gardens could be.
I haven’t included any of our May 2016 wildlife from home today, these photos are last Summers. Tina from My Gardener Says who hosts this lovely meme, has shared lots from her Texas garden though.
Happy Wildlife Watching!
Wood Ants produce formic acid, which can be sprayed at prey, predators and humans too, long trousers, cycle clips and a hat are needed to get up close. Birds can encourage Wood Ants to spray the acid on their feathers to help control parasites.
No pollinators = No Sloes for Sloe Gin.
109 species of insect are associated with Blackthorn , including the rare Black Hair Streak Butterfly. As an early native flowering hedgerow plant, Blackthorn provides valuable nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators. The foliage which appears after the flowers is food for many moth caterpillars. Birds, including Nightingales and Blackbirds nest within the thorny dense thickets and as part of the food web, eat the caterpillars and other insects on the leaves. Birds also feast on the sloe berries in the Autumn.
Salix caprea – excellent early source of pollen and nectar for all pollinators. Drone Fly, only one pair of wings, 10-12mm long body, large eyes and inconspicuous antennae. Drinks nectar, visually mimics male honeybees hence common name.
The Weekly Photo Challenge – ‘Eye Spy’ – A Butterfly’s eye is a wonderful creation, their spherical compound eyes with almost 360 degree vision are able to detect threats from behind at the same time as focusing on nectar probing. Predators and camera wielding humans are all to be avoided. In common with many other insects, each eye comprises of up to 17,000 ommatidia – individual light receptors with their own microscopic lenses. Surrounding the eye and extending through the body are long hair like scales which give a furry appearance.
In late July and August our favourite spot to observe Chalk Hill Blues is Sharpenhoe Clappers, in the Chiltern Hills, managed by the National Trust, just a few miles from home. This species of Blue Butterfly is only found in the UK on southern Chalk Grassland Hills. The adults prefer a sunny sheltered south-facing spot for nectaring and roosting. Although this little Butterfly is not endangered, its habitat is diminishing. The caterpillars sole food plant is Horseshoe Vetch, only found growing on chalk grassland.
Sitting patiently waiting for Butterflies to land nearby and then staying to watch the sun go down with roosting Chalk Hill Blues alongside is quite a magical experience.