‘Bee saviour’ sugar cards could save starving insects

The Guardian reports if you’ve ever felt a pang of pity for a starving bee struggling on the pavement in front of you, then help may soon be at hand. Or more precisely, in your wallet.

A community development worker has invented a credit card-style reviver for bees containing three sachets of sugar solution, which can be placed beside the insect to feed it.

Dan Harris, 40, is now crowdfunding to produce the “Bee Saviour” cards after the success of his prototype, with community groups and businesses in his local city of Norwich, including the Book Hive bookshop and a local pub, pledging to stock the £4 bee revivers.

Each card contains three indentations containing a beekeepers’ formula, secured by foil-backed stickers which can be peeled off.

Photo by Jim Smart under creative commons.

Woodpigeons and crows can no longer be freely killed in England

The Guardian reports “pest” bird species such as crows, woodpigeons and jays can no longer be freely killed in England after the government’s conservation watchdog revoked the licence permitting it. The move by Natural England came after a challenge to the legality of the “general licence” by a new environmental group, Wild Justice, created by conservationists Mark Avery, Ruth Tingay and Chris Packham.

Natural England now plans to introduce a legal system of licences to allow 16 species of birds, including rooks, magpies, Canada geese and non-native parakeets, to be controlled. In the meantime, anyone wanting to control these species must apply for an individual licence, as they are required to if seeking to kill other more protected bird species.

Wildlife campaigners have greeted the decision, which came on Tony Juniper’s first day as the new chair, with delight, but many farmers – and some conservationists – were dismayed.

Photo by Valters Krontal under creative commons.

Help with Bee fly Watch 2019

The arrival of spring means the return of bee flies . And that means Bee fly Watch 2019 has begun!

Above is the dark-edged bee fly, photographed in Normandy a couple of weeks ago.

You can help these fascinating furry flies by taking part in this survey.  Found out how to get involved on this page on the Dipterists Forum.

They will be on the wing through to June. You can see them often hovering over flowers and using their long proboscis to feed on nectar.

And please remember to let us know of any interesting sightings you have in Normandy as well.

Activists free 9,000 pheasants from farm

The Times reports animal rights activists freed 9,000 pheasants during a raid on a Suffolk game farm as part of a campaign to “dismantle the shooting industry farm by farm, shoot by shoot”.

Members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) who attacked Heath Hatcheries in Mildenhall said that their aim was to put shoots out of business.

The Times revealed on Saturday how millions of day-old game bird chicks were being sent from French battery farms on Eurotunnel trains to bolster British shooting estates after ferry companies refused to carry the birds.

Photo of pheasants by Ian under creative commons.

RSPB resigns from government’s pesticides forum after chemical use soars 

The Telegraph reports the RSPB and dozens of environmental groups have resigned from the government’s pesticides forum after two decades claiming the use of dangerous chemicals is now far worse than when they joined.

The charity alongside Wildlife and Countryside Link have written to Michael Gove warning they can ‘no longer stand by’ while the situation deteriorates. Two groups, the Pesticides Forum and Voluntary Initiative, were set up by the government in the 1990s to reduce environmental damage from pesticides. However figures show that the area of British land treated by pesticides has risen from 45 million hectares to more than 70 million hectares.

Numerous studies in recent years have shown that pesticides are causing long-term decline in insects and birds, and are probably behind ‘colony collapse disorder’ in bees which has seen populations plummet by up to 90 per cent. 

Pesticide application photo by Oregon Dept of Agriculture under creative commons 

Decline in curlew birds as farming ‘destroys habitat’ 

BBC NEWS reports the number of curlews in Wales has dropped by 80% since 1990 with farming practices partly to blame, a charity has said. RSPB Cymru has called for farmers to be rewarded for creating suitable habitats for the bird when a new payments scheme comes into force after Brexit. 

It is estimated only 400 breeding curlew pairs are left in Wales. The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) said nature should not be prioritised at the expense of the rural economy. 

RSPB Cymru claims the bird’s decline was due, in part, to farming practices. “[It is linked to] how hay is harvested as silage earlier on in the year, but there’s also been a decline in invertebrates, which is food for the curlew.”

Curlew photo by Sue under creative commons 

Evidence of rabbits in UK in Roman times, say academics

The BBC report rabbits have been hopping around the UK since the Roman period, experts have been able to scientifically prove for the first time.

Tests on a rabbit bone, found at Fishbourne Roman Palace in West Sussex, have shown the animal was alive in 1AD. The 1.6in (4cm) piece of a tibia bone was found in 1964 but it remained in a box until 2017, when a zooarchaeologist realised that it came from a rabbit. Academics believe the animal could have been kept as an exotic pet.

Photo by Steve Marlow under creative commons 

Beavers reintroduced to Yorkshire in 5 year experiment to tackle flooding

The Telegraph reports that beavers have been reintroduced into a Yorkshire forest to tackle flooding as part of five year experiment.

On Wednesday Forestry England released a pair of Eurasian beavers from Scotland to Cropton Forest to determine whether the creatures can slow floodwater by building dams, the first trial of its kind ever undertaken. It follows a project in nearby Pickering which showed that building artificial dams can have a major impact on rising water levels.

Photo by Pat Gaines under creative commons 

Netflix series “Our Planet”: awe-inspiring and thought provoking

On 5 April, Netflix released their ground-breaking eight-part documentary series, Our Planet. We strongly advise watching the show, though be prepared for some highly emotional, but must-see scenes. If you don’t have Netflix you can try it for free for a month.

Showcasing the world’s rarest wildlife and most precious habitats, Our Planet will take you across the globe, giving you a glimpse into some of the most far-reaching places on Earth and the threats they face.

It includes all the elements of the perfect nature show: incredible shots, unique wildlife, and even the voice of WWF Ambassador, Sir David Attenborough – but Our Planet is like no nature show you’ve seen before. Find out more from WWF here.

Rare UK butterflies enjoy best year since monitoring began

The Guardian reports hot summer of 2018 boosted large blue, and black hairstreak, but small tortoiseshell declined. The golden summer of 2018 saw two of the UK’s rarest butterflies, the large blue and the black hairstreak, enjoy their best years since scientific monitoring began.

More than two-thirds of British butterfly species were seen in higher numbers last year than in 2017, but despite the ideal butterfly weather, it was still only an average season – the 18th best in 43 years of recording.

Photo of female Large Blue ovipositing, by Paul Ritchie under creative commons