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Climate Change and Bug Life

This year it seems that winter was never going to end - not particularly cold, but long, long, long and very dreary. But end it did, as of course it had to, and an extraordinary spectacle ensued: the trees and shrubs which had been waiting - in some cases for as much as 6 weeks beyond their normal flowering time - all came out together, and what a show they made! Cherries and horse-chestnuts, wisteria and magnolias and countless others - all in flower together. Absolutely lovely!

The faithful may tree - or hawthorn, which did come into blossom exactly on schedule in the first week of May, was out while the cherries were still in flower or only just starting to drop their petals. And it is the first time also that I have ever seen ash and oak and sycamore coming into leaf in the same week.

Animals too were thrown into vernal confusion, with frogs and toads laying their eggs weeks later than they have in recent years. I found my first frogspawn as late as April this year, which hasn't happened for decades. Latterly, frogs have tended to appear during late February. Indeed, students of phenology the study of the times of recurring natural phenomena), which has been a very popular science of late as people looked for evidence of climate change, will be amazed or perhaps gratified by an abrupt return to the seasonality of 40 years ago. Indeed, this must knock the averages for the last few years back a long way.

Still on the subject of the animal kingdom the dreaded harlequin ladybird (harmonia axiridis) made an appearance with the opening leaves and has now completely overrun the neighbourhood of Netherhall and Maresfield Gardens. There are dozens of these Asian invaders everywhere and yet at the time of writing (mid-May)I had seen only one native 2 spot ladybird so far this year. When I was monitoring this beast’s progress for the carity “Buglife” 3 years ago , we found only 2 in North West London in 2005. In 2007 there were 150 in Netherhall Gardens alone, and this year they are uncountable. Since this invasive species is very variable in appearance , non bug enthusiasts (99% of people I expect) won’t notice much difference in the garden, but to entomologists, and ecologists generally , this is a tragedy.

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