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Saturday, 3 November 2018

It all starts with the insects

I have written before about the great concern I have in the decline of insect numbers in Europe. Long term studies in a German nature reserve have shown that populations have declined by around 75% since 1989 - a catastrophic loss of environmental quality. The impact goes right up the food chain - old world fly catchers can eat 1.5kg of insects in the breeding season, and amphibians and reptiles that depend on insects are stressed and will decline. Once the amphibians start to go, smaller mammals will follow. Nature goes into imbalance, and other populations are threatened. Human growth in Africa means the loss of half of the continent's biodiversity - and growing Asian demands for meat and fish will mean these oceans will be practically depleted within two decades. 

And it's not just third-worlders who are responsible; every bastard who has block-paved his front garden, every proud housewife who fills her home with wasp killers, moth killers, ladybird terminators and all the panoply of chemical warfare insecticides is not only exterminating biodiversity but harming the long term health of her own family.

Biodiversity destroyers - write to them politely
And until the Catholic Church, itself complicit in the destruction of God's bounteous earth, His loving gift to man, repents of its grievous fault and sin it is in no position to dispense moral leadership in other areas of life. 

Though the Guardian does so from a political slant, its warnings are not exaggerated. We must all take action to halt this catastrophic loss of biodiversity - and this can start with writing polite letters to the inhabitants of houses who have block-paved their front gardens. They not only cause flooding that ruins the lives of thousands each year, but have created ecological deserts inimicable to life. Garden-pavers are simply anti-life and anti-social. Then throw out all the insecticides - welcome insects as part of living. 

It all starts with the insects. 

My resident fire salamander, at least 30 years old, who wanders the stream bed


Sackerson said...

When I drove down the M5 in the 1990s the windscreen covered with bug-splats; not now. Agricultural pesticides, or simply mass slaughter by automobile?

Domo said...

Its easy to "blame the pavers" but few do so willingly, its expensive, they're forced to for lack of parking, in many cases, new restrictions on existing on road parking.

Added to that, planning restrictions have led to smaller homes on smaller plots of land, the actual built on land on my plot is about a quarter, a modern home the house alone will be half the plot, add in parking spaces and a patio and what land is left is more nuisance than amenity, so might as well pave the lot.
One of the most damaging requirements is the need for "wild life corridors", which achieve nothing for biodiversity but have a huge impact on layouts.

The Guardian runs the wrong way as always, cheerleading the causes whilst bemoaning the results.
Air tight houses are more energy efficient in some measures, but deny housing to the insects the guardian also wants to save. Small houses on small plots preserves more "wild" land, which the guardian cheers, but the inevitable other side of that creates vast dead zones, where nothing lives at all.

Raedwald said...

Domo - the absurdity of the building regs first making houses airtight to save energy, then requiring electrically powered vent and extract systems to ensure sufficient air-changes within, will be a future post.

Cities are well placed to move away from individual car ownership - in thirty years in London I never owned a car.

Budgie said...

Just ask yourself why your lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, etc, from the supermarket don't have insects or other life on them. That's due to the extensive use of pesticides primarily, I think, though washing will contribute.

Like many other things in modern life pesticides are a two edged sword. They give us pest free crops (at the cost of us ingesting pesticides too) but they kill off natural life like insects. The poison goes into the food chain of predators too (like us).

However building on the natural habitats must of course have an effect. Overbuilding in England is far more critical than merely paving your front garden. England is the most densely populated country in Europe. Due to mass immigration we have had to build the equivalent of Newcastle every year since 2004 just to stand still.

Poisonedchalice said...

Oh right, on the one hand the Grauniad wants us to embrace immigration (and those opposed are fascists) and they also want the government to build millions more houses - and on the other hand they want us to stop concreting over our (once) green and pleasant land in order to protect insects.

Come on Grauniad, which hand is it, coz it just can't be both!

Tony Harrison said...

Raedwald, I'm starting to worry about you! Didn't own a car for 30 years, hugging creepy-crawlies, suggesting that concern for one's culture & people = "white supremacy", criticising those who block-pave their forecourts... Re the latter, surely most authorities (such as my own) specify that this must avoid exacerbating run-off by incorporating drainage and (ideally) porous construction? Re insects, I hadn't noticed any decline in their numbers either here in Devon or at my place in S.France: currently pestered by wasps in the former, mosquitoes in the latter.

Dave_G said...

Cities are as bereft of insects as they are of wild cats, antelope, crocodiles etc i.e. what the hell would you expect?

But cities, as a percentage of total land coverage, are minuscule. In the most detailed analysis ever conducted, almost 98% of England is natural.

So the 2% of 'covered' areas are responsible for the totality of insect loss?

Rather, this is another of those research occasions where in the lack of a provable answers is covered by spurious claims amounting to alarmism - similar in extent to the Man Made Global Warming scam where, in the light of any actual EVIDENCE the culprit 'must be man'.

Typical (still) Guardian exaggeration.

Raedwald said...

Around 4.5m gardens have been paved over - and gardens around houses carry an incredible diversity of insect, plant and animal life. The loss is substantial and significant. There is simply no equivalence between an acre of barren highland moor and an acre of suburban gardens in terms of the variety and quantity of biodiversity they support. It's difficult to understand, I know ..but the evidence for decline is robust and from a wide field of sources.

Oldrightie said...

My conscience is almost clear! Our thatched roof, wildlife friendly and beautiful garden both play host to insects, hedgehogs and probably foxes too. As for birds, many, many different species with only one unwelcome heron, fish stealing predator. Takes proportionally more from my pond than the factory ships of Europe steal from our British waters. Mind you the frogs, toads and newts do well, Heron or not! Butterflies and moths still abound. As for spiders, huge but harmless cobweb spinning to an extent as to become borderline pests!

John in Cheshire said...

I wonder how much of a role is being played by glyphosate in the decline in insect populations.

I have stopped using it altogether.

David Young said...

Having change our frontage from this ( to this ( one could easily say guilty as charged. However, having now matured for several years one would likely be amazed at the diversity of life in the slate dressing, and the number of bees around the Russian Sage in the summer is amazing.

In addition, what one doesn’t see (the side and back gardens) are that they are very much attuned to wildlife: lots of frogs (courtesy of our neighbour’s children bringing home frogspawn for their pond), bats and birds, including Simon Sparrowhawk and recently Jeremiah Jay.

AnonymousOne said...

John Cheshire at 12:53 mentioned


Funny how all the "bad news" about this chemical has emerged after its patent lapsed and it is no longer a gold mine to the patent owner. As the former owners are a bunch of Yanks, I am not surprised that they are trying to poison the well of those who think they can make money out of the substance on a free market.

However, there is an even better chemical weed-killer that should become available as soon as we drop out of the EU into WTO terms, and that is Ammonium Sulphamate. Banned by the EU because no one would fund an unnecessary bunch of LD50 tests. Available everywhere else, even California!

Dave_G said...

Around 4.5m gardens have been paved over (Radders)

??? at (say) 100m^2 per garden (an exaggeration I'm sure) that amounts to 0.2% of the surface area of the UK.

I can't believe for even one moment that such an insignificant area loss would have such a drastic effect.

There is simply no equivalence between an acre of barren highland moor and an acre of suburban gardens in terms of the variety and quantity of biodiversity they support.

There is an instant conflict of facts in that - are the insects more abundant BECAUSE of residential areas? Are you saying that the creation of residential areas is BOOSTING the variety of insect life (albeit the non-paved residential properties)? If we hadn't had the housing we wouldn't have had the biodiversity in the first place? What's it to be? You can't have it both ways. Which one is wrong/right (delete as makes sense).

The now 'requirement' to create alarmism over anything and everything nature(al) to give reason for further state interference - no doubt to be paid for by another tax and further restrictions on personal choice - is far too prevalent to discount and a perfect example of a reason for this dubious report.

We should (and, personally I do) expect more of this BS. If the report has fully investigated ALL potential reasons for insect loss and arrived at this conclusion then fair enough. But I don't think even you believe that for one moment.

The fact that it was reported in the Guardian should be the giveaway.

Domo said...

"There is an instant conflict of facts in that - are the insects more abundant BECAUSE of residential areas?"

We built houses near to fertile farmland
Fertile farmland is biodiverse
Large mixed crop allotments or gardens enhance that diversity.

That's not to say the guardian isn't full of shit

formertory said...

Anon One:

ammonium sulphamate

Ah, you must mean the compost accelerator available from many outlets including Amazon. I did notice that when I accidentally spilled some on a runaway patch of dandelions, all the offending weeds died within days. I had thought it a coincidence ;-)

John Brown said...

Over population is a far more serious problem.

Anonymous said...

Having just had much of the frontage of my house block paved at great expense, I must take issue with the thrust of the article. The block paving, which is permeable and sits on beds of sand and rubble replaced a substantially less permeable inch of tarmac over 4 inches of concrete that was decidedly impermeable.As for the bio diversity, the back garden is infested with all manner of vertebrates and invertebrates - they'll have to make do with that.