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stinging nettle

A sting in the tale?

by Chris ~ 25 September, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are widespread across the UK.   They are found nearly everywhere; in woodlands, hedgerows, gardens and on disturbed ground. Nettles have been found in and around human settlements since the earliest of times; they probably formed part of the diet in Stone Age times.  Nettles also provided fibre for clothing.  A piece of nettle cloth has been found in Denmark's richest known Bronze Age burial mound (Lusehøj). It is associated with the burial of a rich and powerful man - after the burning of his body, his bones were wrapped in a cloth made from stinging nettles and then placed in a bronze container.

Stinging nettle pollen is often to be found in soil sample cores, suggesting it is one of our native plants though human activity and movement may helped it to extend its range.  Nettles can tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions, though they seem to like moisture, and soils rich in nitrate and phosphate. In favourable conditions, they can grow to a metre or more in height. There are patches of stinging nettles that mark phosphate-rich debris from abandoned villages and sites of human occupation from more than 1500 years ago. Nettles have the potential to grow and expand in woodlands, perhaps aided and abetted by the increasing levels of eutrophication (nitrate / phosphate enrichment from air borne pollution).  Indeed, they can become 'botanical thugs' overwhelming other members of the ground flora  / herb layer.
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mowed roadside verge

‘Verging on the ridiculous?’

by Chris ~ 5 September, 2020 ~ one comment

It is clear that wildlife is in decline, not just in the U.K, but across Europe, America - in fact wherever you look. Over the last century, over 90% of meadows have been lost in the U.K.   This decline in natural habitats / ecosystems is largely due to urban growth and the expansion & intensification of agriculture.  Concomitant with the loss of natural habitats is the loss of wildlife.  One particular cause for concern is the ‘disappearance’ or decline in numbers of some many insect species, especially pollinators.  The woodlands blog has reported many times on honeybee and bumblebee numbers.`   Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies or hoverflies,  need to find food (nectar & pollen), plants on which their larvae can feed, sites for nesting, reproduction and over-wintering.

With the growth of cities and agriculture there has been an expansion of transport networks, particularly roads. There are more than 30,000 miles of major roads in UK in 2019, with some 2,300+ miles of that being motorways.   Roads clearly have a number of ecological impacts (dividing up the landscape being one) but they also offer ‘habitats’ alongside the road. Read more...

PV Panels and Solar Farms boost wildlife

PV Panels and Solar Farms boost wildlife

by Angus ~ 18 July, 2020 ~ 3 comments

When we applied for permission to build a solar farm in West Sussex the planners initially worried about the impact on wildlife and insisted that we do surveys of the bats and newts, but in practice the solar panels, now installed there, have created a haven for wildlife.  

Several surprising facts struck me as I walked amongst the PV panels: Read more...

Woodland insects- a new woodlands TV film

Woodland insects- a new woodlands TV film

by Angus ~ 24 April, 2020 ~ one comment

The latest WoodlandsTV film features some insects that you might see whilst wandering through a woodland this Spring.   

One of the earliest to be seen, possibly even in February, is likely to be the bumblebee, which in recent years, has often seen mild periods.  However, the bees may suffer if there is then a particularly cold spell - such as The Beast from the East, which occurred in late February / early March of 2018. Bumblebees and solitary bees are important pollinators. The woodlands blog has often written about bumblebees and the threats that they face due to viruses, pesticides, and habitat fragmentation.  Another woodlands insect - the bee fly is a parasite of their young (larvae).  Read more...

Big Butterfly count 2019

Big Butterfly count 2019

by Chris ~ 19 July, 2019 ~ comments welcome

A brief note to say that the Big Butterfly count is underway as from today (19th July), continuing through until the 11th August.  This annual count is important as it allows ecologists to assess the impact of environmental / climate change on wildlife - identifying 'winners and losers' in times of change.

You are asked to give 15 minutes to count the butterflies in your garden / woodland / local park.  There is a free app (for both android and iOS) and an ID chart to help you.

Thousands of people took part in 2018, submitting 97,133 counts of butterflies and day-flying moths from across the UK; to see the results of last year's survey click on the link - here. Read more...

The 2017 Big Butterfly Count

The 2017 Big Butterfly Count

by Chris ~ 14 October, 2017 ~ comments welcome

The first six months of 2017 were noteworthy for above average temperatures. Then July and August were characterised by unsettled weather and above average rainfall - indeed, it has been one of the wettest summers for a number of years.

The effect of this weather was to reduce the number of butterflies seen during the Big Butterfly Count - which took place in late July and early August.  The ‘warmer’ early months of the year meant that the development of some butterfly species was accelerated so that their peak numbers occurred earlier than when the count took place.  Others were affected by the rather miserable ‘summer’ weather.  The count recorded the sightings of some 20 species of butterfly and moth. Read more...

Counting butterflies

Counting butterflies

by Lewis ~ 20 July, 2016 ~ 2 comments

The British have always been inclined to talk about the weather “it's been too hot, too cold, been raining for days etc”.  However, there is now some justification for discussing the weather as recent years have seen the number of extreme weather events increasing and there have been significant changes in the ‘pattern of the weather”.

Though not extreme, the weather this Spring and early Summer has been been disappointing.  Sleet and snow fell in late April, and there were a number of sharp frosts.  The April temperature was 6.5o C, 0.9o C below the 20 year long term average.  Most regions were colder and wetter.  This pattern continued into June.  This sort of weather, when coupled with last year’s rather cold , wet summer has significant effects on both insect and bird populations. 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 the ‘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...

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