We were pleased to welcome Dr Ian Bedford to our September meeting. Ian is head of the Entomology facility at the John Innes Centre in Norwich which is one of the UK’s leading Plant Science Research Centres. From a childhood interest in insects and butterflies Ian is now a leading expert in this field and he makes regular radio and TV appearances. During his 40 odd years at the John Innes Centre it has increased substantially in size and houses areas where native bugs can be studied as well as an area where insects from other parts of the world can be investigated and where a high level of quarantine must be maintained.
Research into insects from around the world is vital as many sap sucking insects transmit viruses. Ian cited the example of Cassava, a woody shrub native to South America and which is the staple diet of 50 million people – aphids can transmit diseases and decimate crops with devastating consequences for the population. However, we have to cohabit with insects and invertebrates as we share our lives with them in our homes and gardens.
Ian illustrated his talk with examples of sap suckers, pollinators, scale insects, leaf chewers, root feeders and those whose main purpose is to compost and dispose of waste. Many bugs are very beneficial as they predate others which are less so, for example lace wings eat aphids and certain wasps lay their eggs inside host caterpillars. Some invertebrates also form partnerships with others.The question was posed as to whether we should control or conserve. We need to think carefully as to whether there is a real problem, for example flying ants will soon disperse and be eaten by birds and other predators. The options for control are a) Chemical although there is growing concern about the use of neonicotinoids, b) Biological, using predators and parasites and c) Physical through use of netting, fleeces and sticky traps or one could use an integrated management system combing all three. Natural products may provide a safer answer than neonicotinoid and pyrethrum which is highly toxic to beneficial insects and pollinators. Natural plant oils, for example garlic is now recognised as a pesticide. At the present time climate change and global trading is having an effect and we are now seeing different invertebrates in our gardens. Ian talked in some detail about the invasion of Spanish slugs in his own garden. These slugs can be as long as 6 inches, are very prolific and can decimate a field of oil seed rape in a short space of time – none of our audience had seen them in Biddenham – yet!
a small selection of images from Ian’s talk:
Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 16th October when Caroline Holmes will talk about “A Zest for Herbs”