Wildlife at risk crossing roads & NFU apologise after Buglife expose misleading claims

Tonight as I was driving home along a nice stretch of road, which might better be described as ‘track’ and which runs parallel with the busy A18.  I slowed as I approached a moving ‘stick’ which was obviously a larva of some description.  Given that the vegetation on both sides of the road is rank grasses with vetches, bird’s foot trefoil, a few stands of St John’s Wort and even a bit of ragwort, so maybe an eggar of some description, but I certainly didn’t expect the beauty below.  One side of the road is a substantive drainage ditch (currently being extracted to irrigate agricultural crops) the other side is another drainage ditch but this one, the North Engine Drain is a SSSI and part of the series which make up the Hatfield Chase Ditches SSSI and which are sympathetically managed for their wildlife interest.  This particular one (NED) had been ‘managed’ earlier in the year (the first time for a few years) in such a manner that would have delivered both drainage and wildlife benefits.

 

140710 Emperor larva hrk 300

 

Emperor Moth Saturnia pavonia is generally a speacies of moorland and heaths, it is present on both Thorne and Hatfield Moors.  But in the vicinity of Hatfield Chase drainage ditches?  This handsome beast made it across the road to safety and survived risk of predation by corvids or other hungry creature foraging to feed a family.  As noted by a writer for the Guardian perhaps the bigger risk might be posed by vehicles?  I have been unable to definitively establish if the larva is poisonous or if it is just unpalatable because of the spines and crusty ‘warts’ and uses the colouration and pattern to fool potential diners.  Do let us know if you are aware of a paper or such which provides an answer.

Various authors list food sources of the Emperor as being mostly woody plants including heather, but also bramble, meadowsweet, hawthorn, blackthorn, alder buckthorn, sallows and birches.  Some of these species are present in the area but it would need to be both very athletic and agile.  Waring & Townsend (2003) Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain & Ireland also include fens, field margins, woodland rides, mature sand dunes and other open scrubby places.  UK Moths website describe the ‘warts’ as being yellow but Manley (2008) British Moths and Butterflies A Photographic Guide show an example similar to today’s find, with pink ‘warts’.

 

CAMPAIGN UPDATE:

Readers might recall that we have featured the issue of bees and neonictinoids on this blog.  Well, here we are again ….

The NFU have recently made erroneous claim attributing losses in crop yields in Sweden to insects.  But give Guy Smith, their Vice-President his due, he was quick to apologise about the tweets and various news reports.  It should be noted that these were made after Buglife, the invertebrate champion for ‘the small things that run the planet’. 

This embarrassing incident comes not long after Syngenta had to back down with their threats to sue the UK for upholding the EU ban on the use of neonictioids.  David Cameron and Owen Paterson were in favour of dropping the ban, but the critical mass of community campaigning through epetitions and the like caused a rethink …. for now.  The NFU and other representatives of agri-industrial interests have supported the Syngenta campaign, and this is the second time that their claims have been found to be erroneous (no doubt to the embarrassment of both the BBC and Farmers Guardian who reported the NFU claims made by Smith) and as Matt Shardlow says this latest revelation comes on top of two recent reviews of scientific evidence that have failed to find improvements in crop yields as a result of neonicotinoid use and the failure at a recent House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee of a Bayer spokesman to name a single published, peer reviewed scientific paper showing that neonicotinoids improved crop yields.

Who can we, the public and tax payer trust when it comes to honest and robust science?  It’s not unreasonable to expect corporations to promote vested interests but surely to exhibit credibility it must be accurate and honest?  Similarly, Government should be open and transparent and above all beyond reproach, demonstrating exemplary integrity in their conduct?  They are after all funded through public taxation even if their political party is in receipt of funds from third parties?

 

 

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