Blog - Flora & Fauna

woodland web updates 18

woodland web updates 18

by blogs at woodlands, 1 July, 2022, 0 comments

§Mites and bees. Varroa destructor also known as the Varroa mite is a small, external parasite of the honey bee : Apis mellifera. It is a mite. Mites are small members of the arachnids (8 legged arthropods).  The mite(s) attaches to the body of the bee and feeds upon its fat bodies; this weakens the bee. The mite also feeds on bee larvae. Not only that but the mite can act as a vector (‘distributor’) for five different viruses that also weaken the bees.  The varroa mite originally was to be found in Asia, and was parasitic on the Asian honeybee, Apis cerana.  Sadly, it has now spread to many countries and is responsible for significant infestations of European honeybee hives.  Over time, the mites have become increasingly resistant to chemical treatments. Now a program / study by the Universities of Exeter and Louisiana has been selectively breeding bees that identify and remove mites from their colonies [ie. showing hygienic behaviours].  They do this by removing infected larvae from the colony.  This is sometimes referred to as varroa sensitive hygiene.  Such colonies showed significant reduction in mite numbers and were more than twice as likely to survive winter as compared the ‘standard’ honey bees. The colonies also had reduced levels of three honey bee viruses The study looked at bee colonies across three American states, including California.  In the States, beekeepers move thousands of bee colonies to provide pollination services for many different fruit crops (e.g. almonds) in the Spring, thus winter survival of the colonies is vital. Historic rainfall records. was launched in March 2020 (during the 'first stay at home' / lockdown).  Members of the public were asked to help record digitally the information on pre-1960 weather sheets.  The Met Office archives had some 65000 sheets that contained the ‘scribbled records’ of thousands of weather stations/ weather recorders across the country.    Many of these sheets were the records of amateurs dating back decades, many before the foundation of the Met Office in 1854. One such 'recorder' was Lady Bayning of Norfolk, she was an early rainfall observer who took readings from 1835 to 1887.  Deciphering the idiosyncratic handwriting could not be done by character recognition software. However, the volunteers rose to the challenge and the task was completed in some 16 days. As a result, now the Met office has: Rainfall readings stretching back to 1836 Data from an increased number of rain guages  Identified the driest year on record - 1855 Identified the driest month on record February 1932 Identified the wettest month on record October 1903 Note : [The Met Office was founded by Robert Fitzroy, the captain of HMS Beagle, that carried Charles Darwin on his epic voyage around the globe. Fitzroy essentially established the science of weather forecasting] Trees on the move ? We know that trees can ‘move’.   They did so at the end of the last Ice Age (some 12,000 years ago).  As the glaciers retreated so trees started to return to the newly exposed soils as the temperature warmed.  The discovery of the remains of acorns in archaeological digs, and analyses of fossil pollen records indicates that even oaks colonised areas of the UK at the rate of nearly a kilometre a year.   Similarly, Norwegian Spruce colonised areas around the Baltic Sea and the boreal forests grew and expanded - long before humans arrived there.   Now we have warming temperatures as we have moved into the Anthropocene.  In order to survive changes conditions, plants, like us, have to move. So, like after the ice Age, plants and trees are on the move.  Scientists in California have calculated that as a result of global temperature changes, plants need to move northwards (or upwards) at the rate of 400+ metres a year.  In the eastern parts of the United States, it has been estimated that trees were shifted north and westward at a rate of 10 / 15 km per decade.  The conifers going north. Whilst oaks and birches going west.  In Scandinavia, which has experienced significant aspects of global warming, birch saplings are now found higher up mountains, gaining 500 metres in elevation within two decades.  Pines, spruces and willows are also growing at higher altitudes than previously.  Similar colonisations of  hillsides and ‘bare valleys” are seen in Alaska of alder, willow and dwarf birch. Further information here  
How many trees are there in the UK?  Will tree planting help much?

How many trees are there in the UK?  Will tree planting help much?

by Angus, 24 June, 2022, 0 comments

How many trees are there in the world? When Thomas Crowther and Henry Glick used geospatial data in 2015 to estimate the number of trees in the whole world there was good news and bad news. Good news that there were several times as many trees as anyone had previously realised (total is about 3 trillion) and bad news that the number was declining faster than expected.  The calculation was done partly to establish a baseline so that tree-planting efforts could be put into perspective - the UN's Billion Tree Campaign managed to plant about 15 billion trees over 10 years in virtually all countries across the world (193).  But whilst these numbers sound large this has only added 0.5% of trees so much more needs to be done if we want to reduce the damage humans have done to tree numbers - before humans emerged there were about twice as many trees as there are now.  Perhaps that's why the Trillion Tree Campaign was launched in 2018 in Monaco - a principality covering only two square kilometres and almost bereft of trees. More locally, the UK has a tree count of about 3 billion trees - about 45 trees per person - calculated by analysing aerial photos and estimating tree numbers as was done under the UN's Plant for the Planet project.  There is some flexibility on the definition of what counts as a tree - and this assumes you don't count all the self-sown seedlings or bushes, which some might consider as trees.  This number is dominated by a few species - of the commercially grown plantations in Scotland, for example, 60% of the trees are Sitka Spruce so they don't add as much to biodiversity as a wider species mix would do.  And those 45 trees per person is a bit misleading in that there may be nearer to  400 trees per person in Scotland  - it is more sparsely populated with less than a tenth of the UK's population but almost half the trees. The UK's tree-planting is put into perspective by comparing the relative numbers - the UK's 3 billion trees amounts to one thousandth of the global total whereas nearer to 1% of the world's population is British - so by comparison with the world's average, on a per-person-basis a Briton has a tenth as many trees as the average citizen of the world.  The most densely tree-ed parts of the world are the tropics where 43% of the world's trees are growing. At a recent general election (2019) the political parties were competing to promise how many new trees they would ensure were planted - the Liberals and SNP each promised 60 million a year, whereas Labour said they would do 100 million every year.  A more realistic Conservative party promised 30 million trees every year which would equate to about 15,000 hectares (or 6,000 acres).  Despite this lower manifesto promise, the government is really struggling to achieve even that amount - but if they did reach that target every year for 10 years it would add 10% to the UK's tree cover. There is ample scope for more trees with the UK having only 13% tree cover, but are there are other ways to increase the numbers beyond tree planting? Trees will naturally establish themselves if they are not cut or grazed - perhaps one thing the government could do would be to reduce the number of wild grazers - mostly deer and sheep.  
Mistletoe’s superglue !

Mistletoe’s superglue !

by blogs at woodlands, 22 June, 2022, 0 comments

Occasionally, there is a blog about Mistletoe, it tends to be around December and Christmas. It is a plant associated with that time of year.However, mistletoe* is botanically  interesting as it is a hemi-parasite.  It grows on other plants - notably apple, blackthorn, lime, willow and poplar.  It has evergreen, smooth-edged, oval leaves so it can photosynthesise, making sugars and other complex organic compounds.  However, it relies on its host plant for water and mineral salts.  It ‘hijacks’ water and minerals by forming ‘clamp-like’ connections (known as haustoria) with the xylem (water conducting tissue) of the host. Mistletoe produces its characteristic white berries (known as drupes) during the winter months. Within the flesh of the  berries are the seeds.  The berries are often taken by birds and as the tissue around the seeds is sticky, the bird will often try to scrape off a seed sticking to its beak by ‘wiping’ the beak against the bark of a tree. The stickiness of this material probably helps stick the seed to a host.  The sticky material is fibrous and is known as viscin (the scientific name for mistletoe is Viscum album).  [caption id="attachment_38403" align="aligncenter" width="600"] slightly dehydrated Christmas mistletoe berries[/caption] Now viscin is being investigated in depth for its adhesive properties.  Each berry can produce some two metres of the sticky viscin fibres, and when wet these can be processed to form thin films.  It may be that it can be used as a wound sealant or skin covering.  Seemingly viscin can stick to almost anything, not only natural materials from wood, skin and feathers but also plastic, glass and metal alloys.   [caption id="attachment_38404" align="aligncenter" width="560"] 'Balls' of mistletoe[/caption] Research into viscin has been initiated at McGill University and the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces.  It may be that it will offer a new type of adhesive that is biodegradable and biorenewable. Mistletoe is a member of the Santalaceae, which includes the sandalwoods,
Pollen and the pollen calendar.

Pollen and the pollen calendar.

by blogs at woodlands, 14 June, 2022, 0 comments

The pollen forecast across much of SE England this week is very high, according to the Met Office.  Pollen is the ‘powdery material’ produced by higher plants (angiosperms and gymnosperms). It is made up of individual pollen grains, which are produced in the anthers⚘.  When these anthers split open, the pollen grains are released and move by means of the wind or insects to the female reproductive structures (style and stigma in flowering plants, or the female cones in conifers etc).  If a pollen grain lands on a compatible stigma or female cone*, it germinates - producing a pollen tube that transfers the male gamete to an ovule within the ovary. Individual pollen grains are small enough to require magnification to see any detail.  A pollen grain has two layers : The outer layer of the pollen grain is called the exine and is made of a material called sporopollenin. This is a polymer (long chain molecule) made up of various organic molecules; it does not degrade easily. In fact, it can exist in the soil and sediments for hundreds if not thousands of years. The persistence of this outer wall of pollen grains enables scientists to identify species that were present in various sediments formed thousands of years ago. Under the electron microscope the exine has a sculptured, almost ‘sci fi’ appearance - with ridges, groves, spikes, and distinctive patterns across its surface - which are unique to each species.  The inner layer of the pollen grain is the intine. It is made from  pectin and cellulose; it has a role in the germination of the pollen tube. Wind dispersal of pollen is referred to as anemomophily.  Anemophilous plants, like the grasses, generally produce large quantities of lightweight pollen. This is because wind dispersal is random and the likelihood of any one pollen grain landing on another compatible flower is remote, but the probability is increased by there being large amounts of pollen. The individual flowers of anemophilous plants are often small, inconspicuous but may collected together into significant structures (think pampas grass).  The pollen of insect pollinated flowers is relatively heavy and sticky (often protein-rich). The hind limbs of bees and bumblebees are modified for the collection of pollen - the pollen baskets or corbiculae.  Each corbicula is a cavity surrounded by a fringe of hairs into which the bee places the pollen.  Apart from this collection of pollen, pollen may be seen sticking to the hairs / the surface of a visiting insect. [caption id="attachment_24330" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Bumblebee dusted with pollen[/caption] [caption id="attachment_38370" align="alignleft" width="300"] Grass inflorescence - with protruding stamens[/caption]   Whilst pollen is generally harmless, there are some pollens which really ‘get up your nose’ - specifically Tree pollen, from trees such as Birch and Lime Grass pollen, from ryegrass and timothy “Weed’ pollen, from ragweed, mugwort, plantain, fat hen These various pollens can cause allergic reactions when inhaled and the body’s defences are alerted.  The defence reactions may include, sneezing, a runny nose, watery / inflamed eyes.  Tree pollen tends to peak earlier in the year than grass pollen.  Grass pollen is probably the worst offender when it comes to ‘hay fever’ / allergic rhinitis.  The pollen calendar (courtesy of Kleenex) gives a seasonal guide to pollen by month and by area.   ⚘ Anthers are the pollen producing tubes / sacs at the end of the filaments.  Anther plus filament = stamen. * Conifer pollen grains often have air ‘bladders’ which help with the ‘bouyancy’ of the grains so they are easily dispersed in the wind.]  [caption id="attachment_38360" align="aligncenter" width="700"] stamens that have released their pollen[/caption]   Pollen grain image, thanks to Open ClipArt on Pixabay.
woodland butterfly

The good, the bad and the butterflies

by blogs at woodlands, 10 June, 2022, 0 comments

The UK has 58 resident species of butterflies, according to Butterfly Conservation.  Sadly, approximately half are now under threat - being on the Red List of endangered butterflies.  The Red List has seven levels of conservation: least concern,  near threatened,  vulnerable,  endangered,  critically endangered,  extinct in the wild, and  extinct.  Butterflies and moths generally need : A source of food for their caterpillars. Sometimes, this is a single plant species but most species are not quite so ‘fussy’. Adults usually need a source of nectar - in the form of nectar; the sugar-rich liquid formed in the nectaries of flowers.  Again, some species have very specific requirements and will only visit certain plants.  Conversely, some adult moths do not feed at all !  For butterflies and certain day-flying moths, they need a place to warm up and fly, to bask in sunlight.  Caterpillars may need warmth in order to develop to maturity.  All invertebrates are ‘cold blooded (poikilothermic), taking their temperature from the surroundings. Eggs, larvae or adults need a place to spend the winter in ‘safety’, where they are not so vulnerable to predators or extremes of weather.  This often takes the form of taller vegetation, sometimes evergreen, like ivy.  Structurally diverse woodlands can also provide warm micro-habitats, shelter and breeding spots. There is some good news amongst the bad. Two species, the large blue and the high brown fritillary, have been subject to targeted conservation interventions and have now moved from away from critically endangered. The large blue, in fact,  was declared extinct in 1979 but was re-introduced with specimens from Sweden and is now to be found in Somerset and the Cotswolds on restored wildflower grasslands.  The high brown fritillary has also benefitted from conservation efforts e.g. creation of clearings and rides so whilst still vulnerable, its status has improved. Another positive is that the large tortoiseshell has reappeared (since 2019) in several locations in Southern England.  Its decline / loss has been associated with the loss of millions of elms (through dutch elm disease) on which caterpillars feed.  They can, however, be found on Aspen, Poplars and Willows. There are still concerns for some species with the loss of specific habitats, such as flower-rich chalk grassland (favoured by the chalk hill blue and silver spotted skipper).  It is thought that nitrogen pollution (from fertilisers and vehicles) may be a factor.  More nitrogen encourages more vigorous grasses which outcompete certain species of wildflowers (critical to caterpillar survival). On the moth front, recent weeks have seen the arrival of the striped hawkmoth.   This is a migratory species but it cannot survive our winters. Specimens of the painted ladies have also arrived on the prevailing winds.   These have travelled from sub-saharan Africa (by means of several generations) always moving in search of food.  The painted ladies can breed here during the summer months, making use of thistles, nettles, and mallows.  At trend of the summer, the painted ladies return to warmer climes, but they fly at such high altitudes that they are not normally seen.  Their migration was spotted by the use of radar, which can detect insects at heights of a kilometre or more.  It recorded painted ladies flying at a height of some 500 metres as they left the UK going south, again making use of favourable winds.
June Fungi Focus – Ash Dieback, Spring Pins and other Discomycetes

June Fungi Focus – Ash Dieback, Spring Pins and other Discomycetes

by Jasper Sharp, 6 June, 2022, 0 comments

June is the month when I’ve tended to find the first primary evidence of Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, the ascomycetes fungus responsible for the dreaded Ash Dieback. By this I mean that the while the presence of the disease is manifest all year round in terms of the sight of dead or dying ash trees, this is the time when one can first see the tiny ascocarp fruiting bodies responsible for spreading the spores. Hunt around in the debris at the base of an afflicted tree, and one can find these miniscule cream-coloured goblet-shaped ascocarps on the blackened fallen petioles and rachises of the previous year’s growth; the stems and stalks that make up the recognisable ‘pinnate’ leaf form of this species, with the blackening itself symptomatic of the presence of this destructive pathogen. The timing is interesting in that, with ash one of the last trees in our wooded environments to come into leaf, these ascocarps first begin to appear at a time when all good healthy trees should be in full leaf, shooting their spores (more specifically ‘ascospores’) into the air where they infect their host, unimpeded by the early plants of the woodland understory such as anemones, arums and bluebells that have by now died back for another year. The infection becomes evident on the tree itself with the blackening and wilting of leaves and shoots from July to September (Chalara fraxinea was the name for this separate asexual stage, and hence, before the link to the H. fraxineus was discovered, the name Chalara Ash Dieback took hold). [caption id="attachment_38272" align="aligncenter" width="675"] The unwelcome site of Hymenoscyphus fraxineus ascocarps growing from blackened twigs beneath ash trees.[/caption] I covered Ash Dieback in some detail a few ago, but for this months Fungi Focus, I want to discuss a few small lookalike species – the term discomycetes is used to describe the cup-shaped ascomycetes – that shouldn’t be such cause for alarm. The ascomycetes can be a horrible group when it comes to identification, with at least double the amount of species worldwide than the other major phylum of fungi, the basidiomycetes, and a scant few of them baring common names. Going by visible features alone, it is difficult enough to pinpoint down to genus level, yet alone species, with close microscopic scrutiny necessary to go any further. A case in point is Hymenoscyphus albidus, whose ascocarps look identical to H. fraxineus to the naked eye: Both grow exclusively on ash and both have the same blackening effect on the fallen petioles on which they grow. It is for this reason that H. fraxineus has also gone under the synonym H. pseudoalbinus. The only difference between this native fungus and the invasive interloper believed to have arrived from Asia, aside from the fact that it doesn’t kill its host, is that H. albidus does not possess hook-like “Croziers” at the base of its asci (where the spores are produced) – something that can only be ascertained microscopically.  [caption id="attachment_38273" align="aligncenter" width="675"] The related and near identical looking Hymenoscyphus scutula, fruiting on a dead bramble stem.[/caption] I don’t wish to blind the reader with science here, but one take home point is that if you do find tiny nail-shaped ascocarps on blackened fraxineus (ash) debris, it doesn’t necessarily spell doom for your local ash population – it might well be this harmless indigenous species. Another thing to consider is that the Ash Dieback fungus might not only be laying waste to our native ash population, but also outcompeting H. albidus in the process, thus another species falls under threat, albeit a miniscule fungi that is not quite so cherished as our ash trees and indeed is barely noticed by most of us. How many people are scouring the UK to estimate the ratio of H. albidus to H. fraxineus at the moment? Probably less than a handful, if any, I’d say. There are 155 species in the Hymenoscyphus genus according to Wikipedia, but there are probably many many more. Even the dozen or so listed in Peter Thompson’s Ascomycetes in Colour (2013) and Læssøe and Petersen’s Fungi of Temperate Europe (2019) look so similar as to make the eyes water. Some can be identified by their host – they might grow on leaves of specific plants, dead stems of herbaceous plants, or nuts and acorns – although never with total certainty. For example, I found similar tiny cream ascocarps growing on a dead blackberry stem. They seemed to fit the description of Hymenoscyphus scutula. The spores matched too, but even then, I couldn’t be 100% sure.  [caption id="attachment_38274" align="aligncenter" width="675"] These yellow discomycetes growing on a chestnut husk are probable Hymenoscyphus serotinus, although one can never be certain without checking under the microscope[/caption] Some are slightly more notable in the colour department. The small yellow cups I found growing on a chestnut husk could have been H. seritonus, or maybe H. monticola, or maybe something different entirely. I wasn’t going to bash my brains out trying to get any further in such cases, and nor should you. This is very very advanced specialist stuff. (For the record, as well as looking at spore shapes and sizes, the serious “ascomycetologist” would look at features such as the lengths of the asci and the ‘paraphyses’, the sterile hair-like filaments also contained as support structures within the fruit bodies). Anyway, lets move on to simpler things, namely two species of discomycetes that look superficially rather similar to the Ash Dieback fungi but are much easier to distinguish. These are Spring Pins (Cudoniella clavus) and Oak Pins (Cudoniella acicularis). One difference that can be noted with these and the Hymenoscyphus species is that the hymenium, the upward facing fertile surface in which the asci are embedded and release their spores from, is convex than concave – more dome-shaped than cup-shaped, although sometimes flatter. The appearance of both of these are of little nails or pins, as spelled out in the ‘clavus’ (for ‘nail’) part of the Latin name for Spring Pins. [caption id="attachment_38275" align="aligncenter" width="675"] Spring Pins (Cudoniella clavus), can be found growing twigs and other deciduous litter in freshwater environments..[/caption] Spring Pins, as the name suggests, appear from April to July, and usually in great abundance. They are not limited to ash trees anyway, but are found on any deciduous litter and dead wood in wet habitats; the ones depicted here were growing on fallen twigs in a ditch, a typical environment as they often appear in clean still or flowing freshwater habitats.  They are creamy white to yellowish and average around 4mm in diameter, getting up to 8mm according to Thompson, so do appear significantly larger than H. fraxineus. They are longer stemmed too, on average, and have a slightly gelatinous although not quite translucent appearance. This combination of size, shape and habitat should make this relatively widespread fungus not too challenging to identify. [caption id="attachment_38276" align="aligncenter" width="675"] Long-stemmed, gelatinous, with dome-shaped caps and slightly larger in size, Spring Pins are easy to distinguish from Hymenoscyphus species.[/caption] Oak Pins are also common. These are much smaller, with the markedly dome-shaped caps just 1-4mm in diameter, the margins slightly in-rolled so that from above they look like tiny gilled mushrooms such as the smallest mycena species – although a look underneath with a hand lens will clear up any doubt. These are much whiter than the other species discussed thus far, although develop black and brownish spots as they age.  One notable aspect to Oak Pins is that if one looks really closely, one can see that they are slightly hairy, particularly on the stems. But their substrate, not to mention their sheer proliferation across it, should be the real clincher for ID purposes. They almost exclusively appear on very old well-rotted oak stumps, and later in the year too – from August throughout the winter into March, although with the British climate as unpredictable as it is, quite possibly outside of these months. [caption id="attachment_38277" align="aligncenter" width="675"] Oak Pins (Cudoniella acicularis), another common find; smaller, whiter, with slightly hairy stems and discolouring with age.[/caption] June is hardly considered the best time to be out looking for fungi. These examples should show that there is still plenty about during the early Summer months, but many species are very small, very obscure and often very difficult to identify. This post, I hope should go some way to rectifying this final problem for some of them.  And if you do find what you suspect to be Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, don’t forget to report it. Happy hunting! [caption id="attachment_38278" align="aligncenter" width="675"] A proliferation of Oak Pins across a rotting stump.[/caption]
Mature Beech on Box Hill, Surrey.

woodland web updates 17

by blogs at woodlands, 30 May, 2022, 0 comments

Beech and climate change. Beech trees are important (ecologically and financially) in the woodlands and forests across Europe.  Beech has a wide distribution from Southern Europe up into Scandinavia.  However, the beech has a relatively shallow root system and this makes it susceptible to drought.  In recent times, as a result of climate change, extreme weather events such as drought have become more common.  Analysis of beech tree rings (from 5000+ trees) across Europe suggest that whilst those Sweden and Norway are growing quite well those in Southern Europe are not, in fact growth may have declined by as much as 20%.   Current climate projections suggest that beech growth / productivity in southern areas may decline further, with increasing mortality. Warning signals. Many animals are able to send signals to other members of their species warning them of imminent danger, such signals can be warning sounds or ‘scents’.  The scents may be in the form of pheromones, essentially ‘airborne hormones’. Now there is growing evidence that plants may be able to act in a similar way.  For example, if mint leaves are damaged by a insect herbivore attack, then field mustard and soybean plants growing in the vicinity respond to the volatile chemicals released by the mint and activate their leaf defence systems (this often involves creating an unpalatable taste).  The volatile compounds released (during damage) are ‘oils’ or terpenes, like  β-Ocimene.  β-Ocimene has a sweet, woody fragrance but it is not clear how it stimulates other plants into activating the genes for their defence mechanisms.   Research is underway at the Tokyo University of Science. Lead and Birds of Prey.  Birds and Prey feed upon flesh they scavenge (like the entrails of deer, or dead pheasants) or from animals they capture.  The trouble is that often this flesh is riddled with bits of lead shot.  Lead is a poison, and is not easily eliminated from the body.  Animals injured by lead shot may suffer a slow and agonising death. Those that feed upon them also accumulate lead in their bodies, which affects their physiology and behaviour. Now Cambridge based scientists have studied the lead levels in a variety of birds of prey.  They looked at lead levels in the livers of some 3000 raptors. Birds, like eagles, are worst affected as they are long lived, breed later in life and rear relatively few young per year.  For a number of species, they have been able to estimate the % reduction in population size that the lead is responsible for. Species Estimated % loss of population White tailed eagle 14 Golden Eagle  13 Griffon Vulture 12 Red Kite & Western Marsh Harrier 3 Buzzard populations are estimated to be 1.5% smaller, which may not seem much but it equates to the loss of some 22,000 birds. Lead is still used in shotgun cartridges, many pheasants are still  killed with lead based ammunition, despite requests to hunting groups to switch to non-toxic gunshot (by 2020).  Full details of this work can be found here. Warmer autumns and butterflies. Green veined white butterflies are common in the U.K. and Europe.  Researchers in Sweden have been looking at how they might respond to warmer and longer autumn weather.  Under laboratory conditions, they exposed the chrysalises (over-wintering stages) of the butterfly to warmer autumnal conditions.  They found that the chrysalises used more energy and lost more weight under these conditions, and were less likely to survive to the adult / imago stage in the following Spring.  With global warming affecting our climate, it could be that populations of this butterfly could struggle as time passes.
The splatometer :' bugs matter'

The splatometer :’ bugs matter’

by blogs at woodlands, 23 May, 2022, 0 comments

The woodlands blog has previously reported on the worrying decline in insect numbers, but there has been yet another report detailing significant falls in the populations of (flying) insects.  This survey was run by Buglife and the Kent Wildlife Trust  (KWT) using a smart phone app - “Bugs Matter”. The survey suggest that between 2004 and 2021 the number of flying insects (in Kent) has fallen by some 70%.  This finding is not dissimilar to that carried out in rural Denmark which found an 80% decline in insect numbers between 1997 and 2017. Insects are vital to the functioning of ecosystems.  They help maintain: A healthy environment Contribute to the recycling of organic matter Act as pollinating agents Help control pests Without insects the ‘web of life’ begins to fall apart.  The loss of insects and other forms of wildlife can be helped by: Creating larger areas of natural habitats (many have been lost to roads, agriculture, urban expansion) Creating wildlife corridors to link up similiar habitats / ecosystems throughout the landscape Creating wild flower ‘meadows’ by road sides, verges etc Reducing the use of pesticides and other chemicals which have significant effects on wildlife The Buglife survey makes use of a simple technique to estimate insect abundance - the ‘splatometer’.  This involves counting the number of ‘squashed’ insects on car registration plates.  The Danish survey used a similar method but looked at insects found on car windscreens.   This summer Buglife is hoping that people will again contribute to another survey using the splatometer technique.  The survey will run from June 1st to August 31st.   To contribute to the survey you will need :- The “Bugs matter” app (free) and a smart phone. To create an account to send in your results Clean the car number plate before the start of any journey in your vehicle At the end of your journey, count the number of squashed insects on the number plate (using the splatometer grid - which will be sent to you) and take a photo. This enables Buglife to calculate the ‘splat rate’, that is the number of insects recorded per mile.  NB.  Journeys on wet days are not recorded as rain might wash off any insects from the number plate.   The more journeys and counts that you can carry out the better, and zero counts of squashed insects are just as important as those with an actual number of squashed insects. Note : The app includes a tutorial and some safety advice. It is available for android or apple phones.

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