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Insect migration, the windscreen phenomenon and declining populations.

Insect migration, the windscreen phenomenon and declining populations.

by Lewis ~ 25 June, 2018 ~ 2 comments

The migration of animals can have a massive impact on ecosystems  - think of the migration of the enormous herds of caribou across the Alaskan plain.    Each caribou may eat 3 kg of vegetation a day.   With them come predators and parasites, and their waste (urine and faeces) contribute to nutrient and energy inputs to the ecosystem(s).     An understanding of the migration of large animals & birds and ecosystem processes is well established, but the effects of large scale insect movements or bioflows have not been intensively studied (with the possible exception of locust swarms).   Read more...

Flower colours and insect visitors

Flower colours and insect visitors

by Chris ~ 17 May, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Flowers are the means by which plants attract pollinators.   Pollinations leads to fertilisation and fertilisation leads on to seed formation and the propagation of the species.   For plants, like sunflowers, the pollinators are insects - so the plant displays something bold and eye catching for them.   However, the brilliant yellow and orange colours that we see are not what an insect sees or is attracted by.   Insect eyes (compound eyes) see the world very differently - one key difference is that unlike us, insects can see ultra-violet light.   Sunflowers (and many other plants) take advantage of this fact by incorporating UV absorbing pigments in their structure; so what we see as a ring of colour with a darker centre is for insects a more complex set of of rings. Read more...

How to get a Blue Peter green badge?

How to get a Blue Peter green badge?

by woodlands blogs ~ 13 May, 2017 ~ comments welcome

Hi, I’m Imogen and I am a big nature and woodland fan. In this blog, I will be showing you how I got a Blue Peter green badge, and also how you can get one.

In my point of view, us kids should be bonding with nature in the world around us. By having a go and applying for a Green Badge * encourages us to be outside.   Furthermore, it helps us learn that nature is not just something beautiful but also shows how birds live, flowers grow and much more about bugs, trees that we didn’t even know about. By having a Green Badge, you can show everyone how much you care about nature and you could persuade others to try.  Just helping nature to grow stronger by providing more shelter for animals and bugs is giving us beauty in our woodlands and gardens. 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...

Plant galls

Plant galls

by Lewis ~ 25 April, 2014 ~ comments welcome

What is a plant gall?   As with most things, opinions vary but one of the definitive books on the subject by M. Redfern and R.R. Askew “Plant Galls” *offers the following description:

a gall is an abnormal growth produced by a plant under the influence of an organism ...... ; it involves enlargement and proliferation of plant cells which provide shelter and food for the gall maker.  Read more...

3D Printing in wood, insects and clay

3D Printing in wood, insects and clay

by Angus ~ 28 December, 2013 ~ 4 comments

Large numbers of 3D printers are now being produced and used for home use.  It is estimated that the worldwide market in 3D printing will be £3 billion within 5 years - but what materials are used for printing?  Most currently use plastic filament (mostly PLA or ABS), but some printers are being developed to print using more natural materials such as clay or wood, and even 'mushed-up' insects.

Standard home-use 3D printers can print in "wood fill" using a mixture of plastic and wood to create objects that look as through they are wooden whist avoiding many of the issues with production of objects using real wood.  The image below this post shows an array of objects 3D-printed by a desktop machine using a "wood fill" filament supplied by ColorFabb, part of the Dutch company Helian Polymers.  This woody filament contains 30% wood 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 ~ 4 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...

Moss Mites in woodlands.

Moss Mites in woodlands.

by David Copestake ~ 8 February, 2013 ~ 2 comments

In every wood there is moss and leaf litter, and inhabiting these are multitudes of microscopic creatures. Many of these are mites (Acari).  Mites are arthropods - literally animals with pairs of jointed legs and a hard exoskeleton (cuticle).  The main groups of arthropods are

  • the  insects
  • the crustaceans
  • the myriapods and 
  • the arachnids

The Acari or mites (and ticks) belong with with the spiders - as arachnids. The arachnids have two main regions (or tagmata) to the body - the cephalothorax and the abdomen but these regions are difficult to distinguish in the mites - the head end is known as the gnathosoma and the posterior part as the idiosoma.  They usually (but not always) have 4 pairs of jointed legs.  The Acari probably outnumber all other arthropods is the soil / humus complex.  Read more...

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