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Phil, I think it's hard for you to make even a rough assessment of UK insects from a French field in a rural area.

In my own garden I might, like you doubt that there's anything wrong but on my Tues 20th. visit to Wisley I was struck by how less varied the insect life was there compared to that in my part of the New Forest. The total numbers at Wisley seemed less too.

I think we have to give credence to the reports from dedicated scientists who DO know what the different species are and have been monitoring them for many decades.

Silent Spring had a big impact on me when I read it back in the 60's. It looks to me as though the sentiment of the book was on the mark.

Hi Phil

Wet summers have a major affect on flying insects especially. Hoverflies, bees etc suffer badly when the weather changes like in the last 2 summers. If one looks at the prey/predator numbers the predator numbers are timed to coincide with the emergence of the prey species, think about our use of biological control in greenhouses. When the season starts with good weather, the pest/prey species really get a good start, the weather changes and the predators lose out big time, as they rely on temperature to aid their hunting practices.
There are of course several insect societies at the forefront of insect research in the UK, (RES, BDS, BWARS, Dipterists Forum, BAS and so on), these could be said to be some of the most influential insect study grous in the world. Many of their members are more than just enthusiastic amateurs and carry out valuable research and biogeographic recording across the UK.
Insects will of course go through cycles of population explosion, as well as crashes but there will be enough around to keep the population going.
As gardeners it is important where possible to use chemical sprays with great care, there is a thought that Glyphosate is possibly responsible for honey bees losing there way home after feeding on sprayed plants. Here in Cornwall apiarists have gone out one morning to find everything is OK, the next to find up to 80% of their hives empty of bees.
Ok, our use of chemicals is not as great as the agricultural/horticultural industries as a whole but every little helps.
Insects will survive and outlive us a species probably, even if we wipe a few species out(or is that a few thousand species).
We need them so need to be more aware of how to help them (Large Blue butterfly project in North Cornwall).



Take a trip down memory lane.
Do you remember having to stop a petrol stations just to clean the dead bugs off of the windscreen?
When was the last time you had to do that?
What about your numberplate?
Can you still read it after a day trip to the coast?
Time was when you couldn't

From what I've seen it depends entirely on how the area is 'treated'. For example our garden and field are free of all weed killer etc. I see so many insects etc. However, I've gone into clients gardens where chemicals are used and 'low maintenance' is the order of the day and struggled to find anything. Insects numbers will continue to drop (in my opinion) until people wake up and stop covering every inch of their gardens with decking and chemicals

the climate is ever changing last year no ladybirds till july this year there are thousands and none of the biting ones so far either, plenty of black fly but not much greenfly at the moment.

to all those that believe climate change is a new thing - did the dinosaurs consider climate change?

Ouch! There's oodles of evidence for continuing and pretty catastrophic loss of biomass in the UK.

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Richard - If you were looking at the more manicured parts of the Wisley garden then I think the habitat might be too contrived to see a wide diversity of insects?

Peter - let's hope the insect groups can become much more higher profile.

Dave (Nildes) - That's a good point to make and I did have to go and have a look at my numberplate after reading your comment:) Bear in mind that modern cars have better washer and wiper systems today.

Jenny - I agree...we need to think about habitat creation and preservation (although I think we'd all be surprised at what lurks beneath a deck.)

Colin - the sooner we lose the phrase 'climate change' and replace it with 'climate cycle' the better.

Nick - feel free to add some links.

Phil, if only re-naming something that is uncomfortable to deal with would make it go away.

London smogs could have been called 'Seasonal mist'and they would have ceased to have been a problem.

River pollution could be called 'Natural chemical fluctuation' and all would be well - no need for input controls any more.....sorted.

Wisley, I was in the spring woodland, which was looking wonderful, full of flowers but low on diversity of flying insects.

I think a critical mass is necessary to sustain insect populations and small 'islands' of floral diversity may not be enough to maintain them through periods of adverse weather.

Your part of France and the New Forest are big enough to support the kind of diversity that folks remember from the days of more traditional farming and gardening.

If only more gardens were designed for wildlife and in sufficient numbers to create contiguous areas then diversity might come back again.

The exasperation felt by Richard Loader is palpable in his latest comment. Phil, you do not seem to have taken any of the illuminating comments on this post on board.

Just because where you are everything seems 'normal', doesn't mean that it is. I'm afraid that is the start of a slippery slope into self-imposed denial about all sorts of things we would rather not think or take the trouble to find out about - whether its insect populations or climate change.

Your post talks about 'honesty' and the 'selective flow of information', but you present no evidence, in terms of the new book which you have built this odd post around, to back it up. If you really don't trust the people, from a wide range of disciplines, who have contributed to the book, wouldn't the logical thing be to train up in their field and take your cynicism to them? It is all too easy to become cynical when we don't like what we hear. The cul-de-sac of cynicism is denial and is no basis on which to foster a rational debate.

Your ongoing reluctance to recognise the scientific consensus on the causes of climate change is worrying. Yet again you seem to want to nail your colours to the sceptic/denial mast by using 'cycle' instead of 'change'. You might slumber more easily at night by believing what suits, but the scientific evidence is giving those closest to it - climate scientists - nightmares.

Do you really think that human activity is not going to fundamentally alter the workings of the world around us? Ponds turn green and slimy when they receive an overdose of fertiliser run-off, something that wasn't naturally there before, and their character is completely altered, along with the balance of life in them.

Our shared atmosphere is a bit like a pond and we are pumping increasing amounts of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, into it every second. That carbon dioxide is pollution, plain and simple.

Do you really think that, like a polluted pond, nothing is going to happen to our finely balanced biosphere if we continue to pump it full of pollution? Of course it is - it's going to change and already is changing, at unprecedented speed and with increasingly severe and dangerous repercussions for many species, not just the one species driving it.

There's now an abundance of excellent and readable books on everything from the science of climate change to its moral and ethical dimensions, written by folk who do actually know about these things. I heartily recommend some bedtime reading - although you might get a few restless nights.

Thanks John for putting the case so well.

You correctly identify my exasperation at the head-in-sand attitude of a massive proportion of people but I do understand that it's human nature. It's a bit like the frog being gently brought to the boil.

Thankfully attitudes DO change with time, it wasn't so long ago that slavery was seen as perfectly fine by the western world. Now, thanks to a small vocal group we look back and see how utterly unjustifiable it was and wonder how our not-so-distant forbears could have ever been comfortable with the situation.

As humans we have an amazing capability for self-justification, we can persuade ourselves that the most unreasonable actions are OK because,.........(fill in 101 excuses)

I see the role of the Transition movement to show that life can be great without irreparably spoiling our planet......but is it already too late?

Thanks again for the comments.

John, I wasn't going to respond to your comment because I thought it best for the reader to make their own mind up and respond, if they will, in a way they suited their interpretation of what I had asked.

If you re-read my post, you will note that I do not question the book's content - I haven't even read it - most of the post was a question to the reader - not the scientist - do you believe that insects were in decline?.

Somehow the focus seems to have been turned on a lot of things that didn't exist in the original text.

I am not a climate change sceptic either but I do believe that man-made climate change is exaggerated (and I've been consistent in this view throughout).

I believe that the world is on a natural course to exhaustion or catastrophe and we don't have a control over it; that said, I believe we all have a responsibility to carry out good housekeeping, reduce consumption and generally respect our environment.

I don't believe many scientists either and they have become a huge part of a growing problem of skewed information - it's strange that whilst the Icelandic volcano crisis was in full flow, not one person mentioned the billions of tonnes of climate-changing toxins that were being spewed into our atmosphere.

There's a more than a little irony John in your questioning....

You wrote a guest post on Landscape Juice on the 5th January 2010 called 'Time to power down'.

In the post you talked, quite passionately, about the carbon emissions that are emitted while heating a greenhouse and how it could affect the lives of people in Africa.

I'll let others read the post to get a sense of what you are saying.

It is commendable that you are keen to see a vast reduction of anything that produces carbon dioxide in its consumption - or during a production process - yet in the image you supplied for the post, one can clearly see a man-made greenhouse, a plastic watering can, several plastic bags, aluminium greenhouse staging, a plastic trough sitting on the wall outside - all of these products consume oil and create carbon dioxide in their production and all of which there is a natural and sustainable product that would have done the same job.

There is rather an apt saying 'He who lives in a glass house shouldn't throw stones'

I have been reading this thread since it first appeared with great interest. In many ways the commentary is close to determining the whole ethos of 'environment' in the psyche of UK residents. As with all environmental science students it was important to have read 'silent spring' and since moving to France the importance of the text has never been more prevalent. I can walk through true wildflower meadows, which carry on for mile upon mile along the banks of the Clain, the cacophony of wildlife sounds at night blind out any man made and I regularly see wildlife in action which reflects older books describing wildlife and landscapes which can simply no longer be experienced in the UK.

There are many reasons for this, principally historic and geographical - it is very easy for those based in the UK to forget how large the continental mass is and that for the majority of those such declines as discussed are irrelevant. Together with the fact that again it is to forget when brought up in the UK, just how poor traditionally many of our European neighbours were and as such have been unable and also unwilling to introduce the heavy land management regimes which have occurred in the UK and ultimately leading to the declines.

But modern politics plays a bigger role; most other European states have a political system which sees strong ecologically friendly politicians allowed into the system and as such policies introduced which go a long way into tackling such issues head on. What is largely perceived by many of our fellow Europeans as an unfair politic system in the UK, is subject to debate on issues determined by media, who on the whole disregard the environment as important news. Recent UK coverage of the oil spill in the Mexican gulf is a good example of this, where there appears to be weight placed on the image of BP than the disaster itself.

However despite the above and what I feel very disgruntled about is that millions and millions of pounds have gone the way of the quangos introduced to prevent what has occurred. Very little on the ground as actually been achieved. The Environment Agency, Natural England et al, need to be held to account as one wonders why given the structures of these organisations virtually nothing has been done.

Having previously worked in environmental education and protected species monitoring, and having been around allotment gardens all my life I have personally noticed without doubt a significant decline in the insect population. This is most evident with the more generally visible pollinators (bees and butterflies)but even within the undergrowth, there isn't the same quantity of diversity and number of invertebrates as there was even a decade ago, even in a relatively good weather summer as we are now having.
It is a cause for concern.

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