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Ladybirds or bishy barnabees.

Ladybirds or bishy barnabees.

by Chris ~ 16 August, 2020 ~ comments welcome

In Norfolk, a ladybird is sometimes referred to as a bishy barnabee.; this rather curious name is explored in this article in The Spectator from last year.   Ladybirds are beetles and are easy to recognise. Most have dome-shaped bodies, with an oval outline and three pairs of jointed legs.  The most common ladybirds have bright red wing cases with black spots covering their bodies.  Others are yellow with black spots, some white and brown, or even striped.  It has been estimated that there are some five thousand species of ladybird across the world, with 40+ species in the British Isles.

Their bright colour serves as a ‘do not eat me’ warning to would-be predators, apparently they have a bitter taste.  Birds such as swifts and swallows eat ladybirds, as do some spiders, frogs, wasps, and dragonflies.  When challenged, ladybirds can produce an ‘unpleasant’, yellow, oily fluid; or they may ‘play dead’.  The pine ladybird when under threat ‘clamps’ itself to the surface that it is resting on.  Bright colours are used as a defence mechanism in a number of insects.

Read more...

Helping Hands for Hedgehogs

Helping Hands for Hedgehogs

by Chris ~ 1 January, 2018 ~ one comment

Hedgehog numbers have declined in recent years, perhaps by as much as 50% in areas such as East Anglia.  Though they are not doing well anywhere (with the possible exception of Uist  in the Hebrides), there is a suggestion that urban hedgehogs are doing somewhat better than their country cousins Read more...

Woodland moths and butterflies.

Woodland moths and butterflies.

by Lewis ~ 9 September, 2016 ~ 2 comments

There are many types of woodland, which may be broadly categorised by the dominant type of tree(s) - thus there is, birch woodland, oak woodland, beech woodland etc.  The flora and fauna of these different types of woodland varies though there can be similarities.  Some species, such as brambles and ivy can live in a variety of conditions whilst other plants / animals have very specific requirements.

This is certainly true for various animal species - for example, butterflies and moths. For example, the Brimstone (a pale yellow butterfly) has larvae (caterpillars) that need to feed Read more...

What are resilient woodlands?

What are resilient woodlands?

by Angus ~ 30 October, 2015 ~ 5 comments

Making woods resilient has become the latest fashion in forestry as illustrated by the RFS conference being organised with the Woodland Trust in Birmingham at the start of October.ˇ Resilience in this context means resilient both to diseases and to climate change effects.  Much of the thinking is based on the 2015 British Woodlands Resilience Survey which has been organised by the Sylva Foundation and sponsored by Oxford University, the RFS and the Woodland Trust.ˇ There have also been useful presentations on the subject such as the one given at the CONFOR Show (Confederation of Forest industries) show at Longleat, Wiltshire in early September 2015. Read more...

Wild Parsnip

Wild Parsnip

by Chris ~ 27 August, 2014 ~ 4 comments

Wild parsnip is the progenitor of the cultivated parsnip; it is a plant of rough, dry grassland and ‘waste’ ground by roads and railways (favouring chalky / limestone areas); it can occur in public parks. The root is edible but the shoots and leaves should be handled with caution as their sap contains photo-sensitive chemicals (FURANOCOUMARINS) such as Xanthotoxin. These chemicals help protect the plant from its enemy the parsnip webworm. However, these chemicals can cause a skin reaction – phytophotodermatitis (more likely on bright, sunny days). This reaction is not dissimilar to a chemical burn – reddening, blisters and burning – visit the poisongarden website to see images showing the reaction to the sap; affected areas may remain visible for some time. Read more...

Winter weather, and its effects

Winter weather, and its effects

by Chris ~ 20 February, 2014 ~ 5 comments

In 2010, the blog reported on the exceptional winter weather.  Back then, we had just ‘emerged’ from one of the coldest winters on record. Currently, we are experiencing one of the wettest winters ever.

In December, the East Coast faced storms and a tidal surge (affecting communities from Scotland down to Essex), and then Christmas Eve saw high winds and the cancellation of flights from Gatwick.   January brought some 175 mm of rain in the South East.  The closest comparable January was that of 1948.  A summary of the winter so far can be found at the Met Office web site - here Read more...

Ecosystem  Services

Ecosystem Services

by Lewis ~ 22 August, 2013 ~ one comment

We are all dependent on ecosystem services even if we are not quite sure what they are.   At the most basic of levels, early humans benefitted from the products of nature (fruits and seeds to eat, animals to hunt) - that is, food or provisioning .   Shelter from the harsher aspects of climate and weather was also needed and provided; be it by the canopy of woodlands and forests, or the branches and other materials in woodlands used to make a simple shelter.

Ecosystem services permeate every aspect of our lives. Take soil, for example ‘Where would we be without fertile soil ?’  Obviously fertile soils provide us with the best conditions for our agricultural crops and for maximising growth in our greenhouses and orchards, but beyond that soil has many important functions. The organic material of the soil, humus, can absorb and retain water.   It plays a vital role is the regulation of water run-off.  Read more...

Dutch Elm disease and Brighton’s National Collection of elm trees

Dutch Elm disease and Brighton’s National Collection of elm trees

by Oliver ~ 23 June, 2013 ~ 5 comments

Brighton in Sussex is home to Britain’s largest population of Elm trees. These 19,000 elm trees are known as The National Collection. Elm trees are increasingly rare due to the blight brought by Dutch Elm disease principally in the 1970s.  Initially this came into the UK as long ago as 1926.  Dutch Elm disease is a fungus carried by beetles and affects only elm trees. In response to this attack, an elm tree will automatically produce tyloses, an effective natural defence against the 1926 strain of Dutch Elm disease. Tyloses occur in the xylem - water conducting vessels of the plant / tree, sealing them off and restricting the movement of the pathogen.

However in the early 1970's,  a new strain of Dutch Elm disease was imported from channel ports, linked directly to the Canadian Rock Elm. This strain travels faster through the elm trees and kills them before they can produce tyloses. Since the introduction of this strain of Dutch Elm disease to Britain, the number of elm trees has gone down from about 3 million to fewer than 200,000 and many of these are very young ones which will certainly succumb to the disease. Elm trees reproduce by root stalks more often than by seed and so this transmission mechanism quickly spreads the disease between elm trees and along elm hedgerows. Read more...

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