Category Archives: Worldwide Interest

Nature-related news from around the world

The world is losing bees at an alarming rate. What will happen if they go extinct?

Where would we be without bees? As far as important species go, they are top of the list. They are critical pollinators: they pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world. Honey bees are responsible for $30 billion a year in crops.

That’s only the start. We may lose all the plants that bees pollinate, all of the animals that eat those plants and so on up the food chain. Which means a world without bees could struggle to sustain the global human population of 7 billion. Our supermarkets would have half the amount of fruit and vegetables.

It gets worse. We are losing bees at an alarming rate….

To read the full article and view a video from the BBC, click on this sentence.

An Increase in Tick Bites and Lyme Disease in the UK

Walkers in Britain are being urged to take extra precautions against tick bites this summer because an epidemic of blood-sucking ticks is likely, following a mild, wet winter that gave them perfect breeding conditions.

The warning was delivered by Richard Wall, Professor of Zoology at Bristol University, who says there’s no definitive data on how many ticks are in the country. Some areas have none. Others – usually woodland and heath areas – may have more than 100 per square metre. However, the general consensus among rural communities is they are on the increase, largely as a result of the warmer and wetter weather (good breeding conditions) and the growing number of wild deer (ticks like living on their skin).

Dog walkers are also being advised to check their pets thoroughly as well, because ticks spread other diseases too, not just Lyme Disease.

The number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease — the most serious bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks — has also increased, according to Dr Tim Brooks, head of the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory. He says laboratory proven cases have risen from about 200 in the late 1990s, to 1,200 last year, although the actual number of cases is probably three times that. Awareness and testing of the disease has also gone up, so the figures have to be seen in that context, he adds.

Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics if it’s diagnosed early. But neurological problems and joint pain can develop months or years later if it’s left untreated. In the worst cases, it can be fatal.

Typical bulls-eye style of rash around a bite from a Lyme-disease carrying tick.  Source: Wikimedia Commons
Typical bull’s-eye style of rash around a bite from a Lyme-disease carrying tick. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The most common symptom is a pink or red circular “bull’s-eye” rash that develops around the area of the bite, but it doesn’t appear in everyone. Flu-like symptoms and fatigue are other noticeable signs of infection.

Eddie adds:

Before feeding on the blood of their victim, the ticks are extremely small and difficult to see.  What is grimly worse is the fact that they actually burrow into their host’s flesh and become very difficult to remove.  The best way to do so is with forceps, pulling gently, directly upwards but it is extremely imortant not to squeeze too hard and burst the tick as that may leave its mouthparts embedded and can add to the subsequent infection.

Ticks are tiny when they first bite but dig themselves into the host's flesh (which is painless) and swell as  and they suck the blood.  You will NOT feel them doing it and MUST check your body. Source: CDC and Wikimedia Commons
Ticks are tiny when they first bite but dig themselves into the host’s flesh (which is painless) and swell as and they suck the blood. You will NOT feel them doing it and MUST check your body. Source: CDC and Wikimedia Commons

The longer the tick is on its victim the larger it gets as it fills with the blood it is feeding on.  The illustration on the left shows the different life-stages.  (The American ‘dime’ coin that is used for scale is smaller than a British ‘penny’ and significantly smaller than a British ‘one pound’ coin.)

However, the good news — as established over many decades of this problem here in the USA — is that if the tick is removed within 36 hours of first attaching itself, the chance of a person getting Lyme Disease is somewhere between very low and zero, so the crucial task is checking oneself very carefully each day after being outdoors in relevant areas.

Get your partner or a family member to check your back, too, because even though some say the ticks only bite up to an adult person’s waist height, this is actually goverened by the height of the vegetation in the area.  Tall grass or brush raises the waiting insects higher and any resultant bites can therefore be higher on one’s body.  The back of one’s neck and shoulders should certainly be included if you’ve been through tall vegetation, and if you are wearing a short-sleeved top, check your armpits as well.

Ticks climb onto tall or overhanging vegetation in wait for a suitable host. They sense a suitable mammal's presence by the increase in carbod dioxide and get agitated, ready to climb onto their unwitting victim.  At this stage, the ticks are minute.  Source: Wikimedia Commons
Ticks climb onto tall or overhanging vegetation in wait for a suitable host. They sense a suitable mammal’s presence by the increase in carbon dioxide and get agitated, ready to climb onto their unwitting victim. At this stage, the ticks are minute. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Some people in the USA advocate wearing light-coloured clothing so you can see any ticks that are on the outside of such (where they are harmless) before they potentially find an opening and get inside.  Similarly, if you are in a bad area for ticks it is a good idea to tuck your trouser legs into your socks — another way to stop them getting in, even if it won’t win you any points in a fashion competition.

This is certainly a problem I take very seriously and the fact that I always wear insect-repellent shirts and trousers, from early spring until winter sets in properly, undoubtedly helps.

Are such garments available in Britain?  I don’t recall ever seeing them there.  If you are planning an outdoorsy vacation anywhere warm, I would certainly recommend you search for such clothing online as it also stops mosquitoes and other biting insects from spearing you through your shirt!

One good source is Ex Officio and the relevant page is:  http://www.exofficio.com/search/bug-repellent%20clothing but there are several other sources that I know of so just do searches for ‘bug-repellent clothing’ and ‘insect-repellent clothing’.

 Eddie Wren

 


Sources:

  • http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/article4078667.ece
  • http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-27255853
  • http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/epidemic-ticks-hit-britain-summer-3484449
  • http://www.examiner.com/article/mass-health-officials-warn-residents-about-dangers-of-lyme-disease
  • http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bullseye_Lyme_Disease_Rash.jpg

 

 

Did you know that flies can manoeuvre like fighter jets (in tiny fractions of one second)?

“The flies start turning away from approaching threats in half the time it takes you to start blinking at a camera flash, and finish throttling up their flight motor in one-fiftieth of the time it takes you to complete the blink. It is little wonder we find them hard to swat.”                                        [Professor Graham Taylor, Oxford University]

Another fascinating excerpt — this time from Prof. Michael Dickinson of Washington University, Seattle — is: “…they can fly like an ace at birth. It’s like putting a newborn baby in the cockpit of a fighter aircraft and it knowing what to do.”

Read the full article (with video), from the BBC, at: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-26943442

The costs of inaction on climate change will be “catastrophic”, according to U.S. Secretary of State

[John] Kerry was responding to a major report by the UN which described the impacts of global warming as “severe, pervasive and irreversible”.

He said dramatic and swift action was required to tackle the threats posed by a rapidly changing climate.

Our health, homes, food and safety are all likely to be threatened by rising temperatures, the report says.

Scientists and officials meeting in Japan say the document is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the impacts of climate change on the world.

In a statement, Mr Kerry said: “Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy. Denial of the science is malpractice.

 “There are those who say we can’t afford to act. But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.”….
Read the full article, from the BBC.

Would you like to go on a wildlife-watching or photography vacation? Useful magazines!

Following the trend for magazine publishers to include more pages, call the result “bookazines” and charge quite a lot more money for the result, I was looking at a so-called bookazine just yesterday, in our local Barnes & Noble  bookstore.

It was called “WORLD of WILDIFE — The World’s 100 Most Amazing Wildlife Encounters,” and its 162 pages contained a lot of useful ideas for anyone trying to decide where to go to enjoy some unusual or outstanding bird/animal sightings.

The main part of the magazine (I dislike the affectation of the new, bookazine name!) is split into global regions, with the number of recommended trips to each as follows:

  • 17 to Africa
  • …9 to Asia
  • …8 to Oceania/Australia
  • …4 to Antarctica
  • 10 to Europe (including 5 to Britain)
  • …7 to North America
  • …7 to Central America
  • …8 to South America

30 other international destinations were shown in a section devoted to the months of the year…. for example “What’s the best thing to go and see in September?”

Was it expensive for a magazine?  At $15.99, yes.  But is it good value?  Actually, that’s also a yes, if you are hoping to plan a trip of this type at some point in the foreseeable future.

Wild Travel (monthly magazine)
                   Wild Travel (monthly magazine)

Finally, Barnes & Noble has also recently started carrying the British ‘WILD TRAVEL’ magazine each month (see cover photo, above).  It’s imported status results in a price of $7.99 but the articles are excellent and come from around the world.  I recommend it strongly!  Check it out at: http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/world/wild-travel/#cr

[incidentally, this isn’t in any way a paid advert for either of the above publications.  I’ve posted only in case it is of interest to any of our readers — Eddie.]

Links to Nature, Wildlife & Conservation Blogs outside the USA

Page under development. Please add comments to suggest other blogs that should be in this list (any country except the USA). 

Britain

Developing Ecological Surveying Skills — ‘Experts for Nature’ Blog

Falls of Clyde Blog (Scottish Wildlife Trust)

Friends of Emsworth Wildlife (Hampshire, in the south of England)

UK Wildlife (Neil Phillips)*

Mark Avery (Conservation Director of the RSPB for 13 years)

Zac Hinchcliffe’s Birding Blog +

Ron McCombe, ARPS, Wildlife Photography *

 

_______________________________

* = exceptional photography

+ = many additional links to other blogs

White House Releases Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

The White House released a National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking last week in an effort to address the increase in illegal wildlife trade, which threatens wildlife conservation and global security.

The U.S. is one of the world’s largest markets for both legal and illegal wildlife and wildlife products….

….The strategy aims to reduce illegal trade in wildlife not only in the U.S., but around the world by focusing on three main priorities: strengthening enforcement, reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife, and expanding international cooperation and commitment….

Read the full article, from the Wildlife Society