Tag Archives: Buglife

Pollinators are like, well, cyclists really

This ostensibly strange thought came to me as I was cycling up to Westminster early on Wednesday morning. Pollinators were on my mind because I was heading up to the Houses of Parliament for the launch of Buglife’s grandly titled Pollinator Manifesto. A lord, an MP and a Cambridge research scientist were due to speak to the assembled breakfasters about the parlous state of Britain’s insects as manifested in the well documented declines in our native bees, wasps, hoverflies and various other key flower pollinator groups.

Pollinators are important, not just because they fertilize a few wild flowers to produce seeds, but because they have a potentially measurable financial impact in industrial agriculture. Major international farming industries around orchards, soft fruits, almonds, legumes and, of course, garden flowers, rely on these insects to take pollen from one flower to the next to ensure the crop

There has recently been a move to put a financial tag on wildlife, trying to encourage the free market economy to take it seriously. I think the adage goes along the lines of: if you don’t value it, why should you worry about it and why would you bother to protect it. Sadly value often has to mean monetary wealth rather than spiritual worth, but money talks to many people. With newspaper headlines about colony collapse disorder of honeybees and the mass disappearance of bumblebees, the market (and the politicians) have finally started to think about these diminutive creatures, and the possibility that they may not always just be there to carry out their free service for farmers.

Part of me worries that by promoting pollinators, other less commercially significant insects might be seen as irrelevant, less worthy of support and understanding. It’s all very well getting the farmers, the public and the politicians in favour of helping out the poor pollinators, but what about all the other less well known specks of animated matter flitting about in the disappearing and dwindling countryside? Just because something is not a pollinator species, will it be viewed as a second-class organism?

This kind of pick-and-choose favouritism, though, already exists, particularly in the world of insect conservation. Large charismatic species like butterflies, dragonflies, bumblebees and stag beetles are already promoted as flagships. Luckily, the proposals to help the beleaguered pollinators will also benefit the wider insect community.

It’s all down to the state of the environment. Lord de Mauley (Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Natural Environment and Science) was not able to attend the meeting, but Barry Gardiner (Shadow Minister, Natural Environment and Fisheries) spoke enthusiastically on parliament’s serious view of pollinator decline and the consultation recently launched to garner ideas and suggestions. Lynn Dicks (that Cambridge researcher I mentioned) captured the necessary environmental state for recovery in a single word: “resilience”. This is a key concept in conservation, even more fundamental than “sustainability”, because it brings with it the idea of a world that can cope with knocks — a strong and vibrant environment, not one barely surviving in meagre scattered nature reserves, which are easily snuffed out.

To get the pollinators working the broader countryside has got be healthier — it has to be unpolluted by pesticides, it has to be reunited not fragmented, it needs to be interlinked by real natural corridors (‘bee lines’ in Buglife jargon), it needs to have wild flowers reinstated, and especially it needs people to be aware that habitat degradation is occurring, and that insects of all sorts and inclinations (not just pollinators) are suffering major losses, both in terms of numbers and in terms of species diversity, because of human actions in the environment.

It was at this point, having noticed that most of the pains au chocolat had gone from the buffet table, that I started to craft my epic simile about cyclists. You see, cyclists travel about, just like pollinators. And just like bees, cyclists are flagship road-users, highlighted because of low carbon dioxide emissions and personal fitness benefits. Like bees, cyclists are vulnerable, not to population collapse perhaps, but to sudden left turns by concrete lorries, so they need safe friendly routes (like bee lines) to encourage them. They need air free of pollution from both neonicotinoids and exhaust fumes, so they can go about their business without being poisoned. They need forage zones (or at least places to park their bikes) which are secure and open. They need drivers (and pedestrians) to be aware of them, on the look out for them, respectful of them even. In effect they need a pleasant varied non-industrialized road system that is suited to diverse users, not just motorists. Just like the bees need a resilient varied interconnected environment suited to the diverse needs of wildlife, not just farmers.

If you’ve made it this far through my rambling discourse, well done, and thank you. It may still need some work. I’m not going to cycle in a black and yellow fluffy jumper quite yet.

The streaked bombardier beetle needs you — now

This just in, a plea from Buglife…

Buglife urgently need some volunteers to help us create habitat for the rare and endangered streaked bombardier beetle.

Brachinus sclopeta, the streaked ground beetle, painfully beautiful and mythically rare.

Why do we need help? The streaked bombardier is one of the UK’s most endangered invertebrates. It lives on brownfield sites that have been abandoned and where nature has taken hold.  It is only known from 2 sites in the UK both in London. One of the sites is in the process of being destroyed and we want to create suitable habitat for the beetles to move to. It is crucial that the habitat is created ASAP to prevent the beetles from becoming extinct.

What is the task? Creating habitat mounds for the streaked bombardier beetle. The work will involve loading wheel barrows with soil, bricks and chalk and moving it 30m then positioning it in ‘S’ shaped mounds. After the mounds have been created we need to plant plug plants and sow wildflower seeds.

Where: University of London Docklands Campus

Easy to get to via public transport only a short walk (less than 5 mins) from Cyprus station on the Docklands Light Railway. Buglife staff will meet you at the station. Or if travelling by road the postcode is E16 2RD, University Way.  Once on University Way, take 2nd barrier on the right going into the Sports Centre car park.  At the barrier, press the button and state you are here for the Buglife work on the Teardrop site. Once through the barrier, take an immediate left on the red bricked path, through the gates and park in the tarmac area. Once at the site please call Buglife staff and we will meet you.

When: Thursday 3rd May and Friday 4th May

What time: 10am- 4pm

What you need to bring: warm water-proof clothes, stout boots (steel toe capped if you have them). Buglife will provide thick gloves and eye protection. Bring a packed lunch too!

Contact details:  If you can help please contact Sarah Henshall on 07968 976213 or email sarah.henshall@buglife.org.uk