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Global warming and the changing seasons.

Global warming and the changing seasons.

by Chris ~ 8 December, 2016 ~ comments welcome

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been carefully monitored since the 1950’s (for example at Mauna Loa).  For much of recorded history and prior to the industrial revolution, the level of carbon dioxide was about 280 ppm.  However, its current level of 400 ppm represents a significant increase and is probably the highest value for some 800,000 years.  It has risen because of the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, peat etc.) - which release carbon dioxide.  This has contributed to global warming and the phenomenon of climate change.

However, the rise in global temperature has not been quite as great as some calculations / predictions have proposed.  The “greening of the planet” (that is an increase in the number of trees and plants growing on the planet) was held to be responsible for this ‘reduction’ in anticipated temperatures. Read more...

Electric bumblebees

Electric bumblebees

by Chris ~ 15 June, 2016 ~ one comment

Flowers have various ways of tempting pollinating insects to visit them.  Indeed, some have very complex mechanisms to promote pollination and fertilisation, for example, the bee orchid.  In order to attract pollinating bees, the orchid has evolved “bee-look-alike” flowers.  These draw the bees in with the “promise of sex”.  They attempt to mate with the flower, landing on the velvety lip of the flower and pollen is transferred.  The bee leaves ‘frustrated’.  However, the right species of bee doesn't live in the U.K., so here bee orchids self-pollinate. Read more...

Poor pollination and pesticides

Poor pollination and pesticides

by Chris ~ 3 April, 2016 ~ 3 comments

Dr Dara Stanley of New Holloway, University of London has been looking at the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on ‘efficiency’ of bumblebee pollination of apples.  Several studies have already implicated these pesticides in the decline of foraging behaviour of bees / bumblebees.  As some 30% of agricultural crops depend on pollination by bees and  bumblebees, hover flies and other arthropods (with an estimated global value in excess of $350 billion / year) then the effects of these pesticides needs to be evaluated, so that informed debate on the banning or restriction  of their use can take place.

Dr Stanley and associates exposed some bumblebees to ‘low’ levels of neonicotinoids (such as might be found in wild flowers), others were exposed to no pesticide.  Read more...

Fennel, another umbellifer

Fennel, another umbellifer

by Chris ~ 22 January, 2016 ~ comments welcome

There are a number of plants that have ‘fennel’ in their name.   For example, :

  • Dog Fennel : Eupatorium capillifolium
  • Giant Fennel : Ferula communis
  • Fennel, Sweet Fennel : Foeniculum vulgare
  • Florence Fennel : Foeniculum vulgare azoricum
  • Hog's Fennel : Peucedanum officinale
  • Wild Fennel : Nigella arvensis
  • Bronze Fennel : Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum'

However, it is the various forms of Foeniculum :-  Fennel, Sweet Fennel or Florence Fennel that are ‘best known’ through their use in cooking and / or the making of absinthe.  Such fennel plants are often garden escapes, but Foeniculum vulgare has naturalised, being particularly associated with disturbed ground. and the banks of streams and rivers.  Read more...

Know your bumblebees

Know your bumblebees

by Chris ~ 27 June, 2014 ~ 5 comments

Following on from last week's post, the woodlands blog has often reported on the problems facing honey bees and bumblebees - from the vagaries of climate to the effects of insecticides, such as neonicotinoids.  Whilst it is easy to identify a honey bee and spot a bumblebee, it is somewhat more difficult to say what type of bumblebee might be foraging in your garden or woodland.

There is a lot of information about bumblebees at the bumblebee conservation trust website.  A particularly useful link is "Top tips for bee ID"; tail colour is an important or helpful feature.  Read more...

bumble bee

Bees and bumblebees – neonicotinoids

by Lewis ~ 21 February, 2013 ~ 10 comments

DDT was used an insecticide at the onset of WW2, with great success in terms of controlling malaria and typhus among civilians and troops. After the war, it was available as an agricultural insecticide.  However, within a few years, there were warning signs that not all was well and in 1946, the Soil Association journal read as follows "By the wholesale use of powerful insecticides of which far too little is yet known, we may well be upsetting the whole balance of Nature. We are like schoolboys rat-hunting in a munition dump with a flame-thrower."

Some years later (in 1962),  Rachel Carson published ‘Silent Spring’ – which seriously questioned the use of organochlorines, such as DDT and warned of the dangers of the indiscriminate use of insecticides.  The use of these chemicals continued Read more...

2012 – a rather wet year.

2012 – a rather wet year.

by Lewis ~ 8 January, 2013 ~ 7 comments

It has been a rather strange year.  After another dry winter – March arrived and was one of the warmest and driest on record; consequently, many of us were threatened with restrictions (on hosepipes etc)  as a severe drought threatened - many reservoirs were very low on water.

But then came April, which was one of the wettest recorded in the UK.  Some 121.8 mm of rain fell, beating the previous record of 120.3 mm -which was set in 2000; some parts of the U.K. had three times the ‘normal’ amount of rainfall. June was also very wet and set a record. There then followed the wettest summer as a whole since 1912.   The final rainfall figures for the year have been released and the total rainfall for the UK during 2012 was 1,330.7 mm (52.4in), just 6.6mm short of the record set in 2000.

The big winners in these wet conditions were slugs – including the giant Spanish super slug, or Spanish stealth slug that was reported to be invading gardens.  These have an  ‘enhanced’ breeding cycle producing many more eggs Read more...

Make your own ‘bug hotel’

Make your own ‘bug hotel’

by Stuart ~ 17 September, 2012 ~ one comment

Bugs or invertebrates such as insects, arachnids, centipedes, molluscs, crustaceans and millipedes are an essential part of any ecosystem including our woodlands. In woodland they help create the leaf litter layer and dead wood which adds essential nutrients into the forest ground layer. Some insects pollinate flowers helping to create productive crops, biodiversity and picturesque woodlands. Some even provide us with honey.

The wonderful birdlife we have in this country thrives due to the large number of insects which are essential food stuff for birds, including our woodland birds such as woodpeckers, tree creepers and willow warblers. Read more...

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