Insect Loss

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Much has been made of the insect Armageddon news this month – that the massive decline in insect life is overwhelmingly terrible for the world. Conservationists and entomologists have been warning about this for years but perhaps the extent of the decline has been so far unknown. New research, however, has found that three quarters of flying insects on German nature reserves have vanished in 25 years.

This is an obvious problem for the food chain: fewer insects means birds don’t get as much food, therefore fewer birds; fewer birds for mammals to feed on. And it’s not just the loss of a direct food resource for birds – insects are our pollinators, and many birds and mammals feed on flowers and plants. Without insects the entire ecosystem will collapse.

So what might have caused this worrying trend?

  • loss of wild habitats
  • use of pesticides
  • possibly climate change

The scientists involved were able to rule out weather and landscape changes as not having sufficient impact to explain the severe 75% decline.

The scientists have been using malaise traps since 1989 to trap and analyse insect numbers across 63 nature reserves in Germany; given that the landscape throughout the rest of Western Europe is pretty much the same, I think it’s safe to generalise these findings to Britain as well. Not only has the research captured a much larger range of insects than is normally studied in one research attempt, it was also carried out on nature reserves, which are protected areas.

Just to get your head around how catastrophic this decline is, bear in mind that insects have dominated and thrived on this earth for millennia – they are incredibly prolific and have been relentlessly successful. And human behaviour has caused a 75% decline in 25 years?!

The conclusion of this research – that declining insect numbers have and will have a devastating effect on ecosystems as a whole – has been demonstrated by other evidence. Spotted flycatchers, who feed primarily on flying insects, have declined by 95%. Grey partridges, which feed their chicks on insects, have all but vanished from the countryside. We know it’s true from last year’s State of Nature report, which found that in the past 50 years over 56% of species have declined and 15% are either extinct or nearly. We also know this instinctively through anecdote: see the windscreen phenomenon.

It’s not just agriculture, though I’m pretty convinced that the loss of hedgerows and flower borders means that farmland is virtually an ecological void. Yet everywhere you look, there is tidiness. What used to be front gardens are now paved over for cars.  Grass is cut on road verges and around cities as soon as it reaches your ankles – I wrote a post about this.

What can we do about it?

  • get over our cultural aversion to creepy insects
  • consider the importance of the minutiae of ecology
  • stop poisoning the land with pesticides on an industrial scale
  • make our gardens mini nature reserves
  • bang on and on about insects on your blog
  • teach your kids to appreciate insects
  • lobby your local council to stop mowing every patch of grass

 

 

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ORGANii: Soap & Shower Gel Review

ORGANii: Soap & Shower Gel Review

I’ve been delving deeper into vegan & organic natural skincare recently and on my hunt for ethical, organic products I have come across a really great brand called ORGANii; their range includes shower gels, body wash, soaps, and sun cream, and they are all about natural, organic ingredients – and everything is suitable for vegans!

Today I have two products to review, which ORGANii have kindly sent to me to try out. They are both suitable for vegans and certified by organisations that guarantee organic ingredients; you can find out more about the Ecocert and Ecogarantie certifications here and here.

ORGANii Everyday Organics Shea Butter Shower Gel

I really like the cute packaging on this product – it looks like a little bottle of milk! It claims to be “delicately fragranced” with shea butter so the scent is mild and slightly nutty. This shower gel is so wonderfully gentle on the skin – perfect for sensitive skin and children – and lathers up nicely. Shea butter is known to be a great nourisher for the skin as it contains natural vitamins and fatty acids and this product really leaves my skin soft and re-hydrated – very impressive for a product designed for everyday use with no claims to spa-standards. It’s particularly impressive that they’ve made such a great everyday shower gel without all the usual stuff & nonsense that non-organic or non-natural brands feel it necessary to put in.

I’ve used it a few times so far and it feels like this 300ml bottle will last a lot longer than I’m used to, which makes it good value for money. Other scents include: aloe vera and bamboo, strawberry, argan, and liquorice, which I am really intrigued to try!

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ORGANii Everyday Organics Lavender Liquid Soap

Lavender is one of my favourite scents; in soap, in creams, in cakes, in my garden. So I was already pretty certain this soap would be a winner and I wasn’t wrong. I love the packaging again – it’s got cute little colourful hands and there is a little sprig of lavender on it as well. Again, this product is completely vegan, natural and organic, so it ticks plenty of boxes for the ethical consumer. It’s also full of organic olive oil so it creates a really nice moisturized effect, which I was very impressed with as I always feel like with other soaps I need to moisturize after washing my hands as many soap brands dry out my skin. My hands have always been quite dry and are the skin is prone to cracking in winter so this soap has come to me at the right time.

The liquid soap also comes in rose, citrus, and a neutral aroma-free – I can’t wait to try the rest!

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Both products:

  • Are tested on humans, not animals
  • Contain no animal ingredients
  • Suitable for vegans
  • No added colourants
  • No synthetic scents
  • No parabens, SLS, Phenoxyethonol, or PEG
  • 100% natural origin perfumes

ORGANii is a small independent British brand with products available in health stores and online at: www.organii.uk. You can read more about their ethos here and you can track down your nearest stockist here.

I cannot recommend this range enough – all cruelty-free, natural, organic, and vegan, with beautiful mild and gentle aromas. Both products come in at around a fiver so they are pretty affordable for a vegan organic brand. The natural/organic certifications are very reassuring because it means that I can be certain when using these products that they are sourced from organic, natural ingredients from sustainable sources; they are therefore cruelty free, better for the environment, and better for your skin.

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Butterfly Confetti: a dangerous trend

It’s a very Instagrammable site – releasing beautiful butterflies from boxes at weddings and funerals. But this growing trend is a huge concern to wildlife groups as the non-native species will not be able to breed or survive as their food source is unavailable in this country.

It is also illegal to release a non-native species into the wild in the UK.

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The Guardian says:

This is how it works: you pay £350 for each of your 50 guests to hold a box with a butterfly in it while a Native American poem is read out (“If anyone desires a wish to come true they must first / Capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it” – sounds totally authentic to me) and, presumably, that perfect picture is captured as a cloud of beautiful insects flutter blindly towards the air-conditioning unit as you embark upon your married life in a whirlwind of everlasting love, fidelity and butterfly parts. Such a lovely service.

Apart from the sick-making cultural appropriation, the butterflies released will flit off into their new lives in a foreign country without the ability to find food or mates; they could spread disease and and affect other species, and the practice is illegal.

Not just a daft wedding fad, then, but also an act of animal cruelty – who would want to start their married life condemning creatures to death?

 

 

Red Squirrels and Nuthatches

A short post today containing some photos I took at Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk this Sunday. We go there quite a bit as we have an annual membership so we’re getting to see the park in all seasons this year which is quite interesting. This is by no means everything that Pensthorpe has to offer – there are also eurasian cranes, flamingos, corncrakes, turtle doves, waterfowl, bearded tits, birds of prey, otters, so an awful lot of wildlife.

The woodland hide never fails to let me down – there were at least three nuthatches. There are around 5 or 6 feeders and you can get really close but what’s so impressive is how much activity there is – you don’t know where to look. I feel like a nuthatch is an autumn bird because it always seems to be photographed with an acorn in its bill.

 

Here are a few of the red squirrels. Pensthorpe has a captive breeding programme so you can see the red squirrels and their kittens up close before they’re released onto Anglesey as part of a reintroduction project.

Wildlife Selfie Code

A wildlife conservation charity called World Animal Protection is asking people to pledge to follow their Wildlife Selfie Code, which aims to educate tourists on how best to interact with wild animals. The growing trend for taking selfies with wild animals is having a devastating effect on the animals captured for photographs and for threatened species as a whole.

There has been a 292% increase in wild animals selfies posted on Instagram since 2014 to the present day, with the majority of the photographers apparently unaware of the harmful effects this activity is having on wild animals. Not only are many of the animals kept in cruel conditions, having been stolen from the wild, they are treating inappropriately and won’t survive long.

Sloths have become an obvious target of this trend; and with their perpetually smiling faces and slow movements they are the ideal subject for selfies. But they are captured from their natural habitats, kept in noisy and unsuitable conditions, and endlessly exploited and passed around between tourists. It is expected that sloths kept in such conditions do not survive more than 6 months living such a miserable existence.

I’m sure the majority of tourists who take wildlife selfies are well-meaning animal lovers who don’t realise what’s going on and don’t anticipate that the shock and stress of human contact can kill a wild animal. Just read about this dolphin that died when tourists dragged it from the water to take selfies.

If this kind of story sickens you then please sign up to the Wildlife Selfie Code here and help World Animal Protection spread the word by sharing your pledge on social media.

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Autumn Signs to Watch For

What’s not to love about autumn? The falling of the leaves; the darkening of the nights; the retreat of certain species and the emergence of others.

This post is about the first signs of autumn and what to watch out for.

Fungi

Probably one of the first signs of the changing seasons, fungi start to pop up in woodlands in late summer, especially after rain. But it’s not just woodlands – lawns, small patches of grass in cities, too, and even on piles of dead logs. Not knowing a damn thing about identifying fungi, I steer clear of harvesting any of it. If you are interested, however, you can learn about which species of fungi are poisonous and how to ID them in this helpful guide.


The deer rut

Now is the time of year that stags develop their antlers to fight other males and compete to attract a harem of females. The fights are an impressive display of power and fascinating to watch.

Turning Leaves

Leaves changing colour is a spectacular autumn sight. I remember holidays in the Lake District and the incredible display of yellow, green and brown leaves on huge trees around the lakes. It’s interesting to see which trees start to change first and how quickly, especially when half the tree still has green leaves. In fact, a project by the Woodland Trust called Nature’s Calendar wants us to track what trees we see changing colour and when to build a better understanding of how weather and climate affects wildlife.

Fruits, nuts and seeds

Trees use this season to disperse their seeds and reproduce. Blackberries come into fruit in late summer and early autumn and are a known marker of the changing season. Acorns, of course, are cached by squirrels and other mammals to store in their winter larders – but did you know that jays also do this?

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Birds

Many bird species gather in flocks to spend the cold autumn evenings roosting together or preparing or recovering from migration. Geese flock in large numbers by the coast, rooks go to roost in large flocks in the evenings, and starlings start their murmations. The wildlife-friendly gardener will have thistles and late-flowering plants such as sedum to provide insects with sustenance for the long winter ahead, ensuring a supply for birds in the spring. Look out for the arrival of fieldfare and redwing.

Spiders

It can come as a shock in autumn to discover just how many spiders there are in the world – not just in the world, but in my house! The less said about spiders the better.

 

 

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