Pests and wildlife in the year that was

Lewis at Woodlands.co.uk tells us how 2012 – a rather wet year was a good one for slugs in Britain, especially the Spanish stealth slug (Arion flagellu) which I mentioned in July. A good year for slugs is bad news for farmers and growers, and for ecosystems. This alien slug carries diseases and parasites which might drive some of our native molluscs to extinction.

Lewis’ article also tells us how the wet weather was bad news for birds, butterflies and bees in Britain. That affected crops of honey and apples, among other things. My blog’s been quite negative recently, hasn’t it? But there’s not much point pretending that news is better than it really is. 2012 was a harsh year on the land.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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9 Responses to Pests and wildlife in the year that was

  1. Rachel says:

    We did a lot of dormouse surveys last year, using nest tubes. The majority of them were filled with slugs and their poo each month – it was disgusting. It also meant that they were entirely unsuitable for dormice to use, as they were so wet. Needless to say, we didn’t find any dormice!

    • argylesock says:

      Oh yuck! Those traps weren’t fit for purpose, then. Do you think the traps were so badly designed as a way of weeding out people who didn’t really want to be ecologists? I’ve often noticed how unglamorous fieldwork really is, and labwork’s no better. There should have been at least one adorable little dormouse to compensate you for the yuckiness, even if it had turned out to be a fake dormouse!

      • Rachel says:

        Hehe, it would be amusing to think they are a way of weeding out the wanna-be ecologists, but no, I don’t think so. The tubes are primarily designed for ecologists to survey for potential dormouse presence over a season or two – there is a site in kent which uses nest tubes as opposed to boxes and they found a breeding female with seven young inside. The boxes are designed mainly for conservationists to continously monitor known populations within a site, year on year. I think it has been that because it has been so wet, especially where we have been doing our surveys, that the wood in the tubes just hadn’t had time to dry out, and of course wet, dark places are perfect for slugs, who poo everywhere which makes them even more unsuitable. Some tubes have even had tiny tiny mushrooms growing on top!!

        As well as doing dormouse surveys for work, I am training for my dormouse licence, so I get to go out once a month to a lovely local site with my trainer where we get to see plenty of dormice, so that more than makes up for it 🙂

        • argylesock says:

          Another reason to say that 2012 was a harsh year on the land: it messed up the dormouse traps!

          I hope you do get your dormouse licence. Reading your blog touches a nerve for me because, as you might know, I’ve had to give up fieldwork and labwork due to my worsening disability (multiple sclerosis). So I envy you. But it doesn’t really matter who does the science, so long as it gets done well. I’ll carry on writing about it and reading your words about it.

  2. Rachel says:

    I am so sorry to hear that, I didn’t know 😦 But thank you for still reading, it’s great to find someone who enjoys asking questions and is happy to discuss topics. Your posts are so varied and interesting that I HAVE to keep coming back for more 🙂

    • argylesock says:

      Oh thank you! Blogging is a lifeline for me, both the reading and the writing. I started Science on the Land in response to a suggestion by Prof Tim Benton, to whom I owe my enthusiasm for R. As well as being a great teacher, and allowing one of his postdocs to hire me for casual work in his group, Tim was one of the tame experts I quoted in my entry for last year’s Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize. As I chatted with him from my wheelchair, he suggested that I write a science blog and here I am 🙂

      I’m very glad to have e-met you and other good scientists here. Do please tell me (politely) if you catch me writing scientibollix. You won’t be the first… today Finn Holding of The Naturephile and Johathan Briggs of Mistletoe Matters have caught me claiming that blackcaps overwintering in Britain are the same birds we had as summer visitors. In fact, it seems, there’s evidence that these birds are new migrants from Eastern Europe.

      While on this thread, I’ll mention that I’m for sale. If you’d like me to write for you, at a reasonable rate, just let me know.

      • Rachel says:

        I find writing a blog not only gets people involved with things, but it keeps me researching for my posts and keeps me questing for new stuff. And of course, reading other people’s work.

        As to scientibollix, how are we supposed to be entirely accurate about everything? That’s where readers come in 🙂 we can make suggestions or corrections and maybe it will encourage you to research into that? That would be an interesting article to write about on here.

        I shall keep it in mind – where do you live, if you don’t mind me asking? Do you do much writing? And if you don’t already, have you thought about approaching editors about writing for wildlife/farming/general country life magazines?

        • argylesock says:

          Good points. Yes blogging keeps t’old mind stimulated doesn’t it? I live in Yorkshire as you might guess from my occasional outbursts of an offcum’d’un’s fake Northern accent.

          That’s an interesting suggestion about writing for magazines. I should follow that up. I’ve almost certainly been hired to write for veterinary textbooks. I’ll compete for the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize again this year. Also started entries for another two science writing competitions, didn’t complete those but learned a lot about how it feels to write to somebody else’s specifications.

  3. Rachel says:

    A fellow Yorkshirewoman! 😀 Good luck for your competitions.

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