Friday, 14 August 2015

The Blob, The 6th Mass Extinction and Smiley Bees

What's that in the woods? Sawdust, foam or dog sick? Ah, I've seen this before. It's the prosaically named dog's vomit fungus, a slime mould recorded quite brilliantly in the American blog Margaret's Garden. I remember watching the B Movie she's talking about. The monster in The Blob, the writer tells us, 'was based on the plasmodium phase of a slime mould'. I love what an internet search can throw up.

There's a lot of friendly noise in the ether comparing notes on natural history ID, sharing unusual finds and celebrating every-day occurrences such as bees and butterflies. With people posting every sighting of a moth, froglet or hedgehog, my Twitter timeline seems more Garden of Eden than Noah's Ark. Online noticeboard Streetlife is starting to shout about it too. Among appeals for decorators, lost dogs and long threads of discriminatory 'comments' aimed at Travellers pitched for a few days on a local verge, there's a buzz about buzzards and ecstasy about the red kites that are fast swooping into the collective conscience. But the very fact that common bees and butterflies are noteworthy is pitiful. I don't mean I think it's pathetic. I mean it's cause for concern.

Common blue butterfly (photo Jo Sinclair)
The charity Butterfly Conservation supplied goddamn beautiful pictures of butterflies non-stop during the Big Butterfly Count (see previous post). Then they put out news of a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change warning of butterfly extinctions. I peered at my single nasturtium pot today. It looks like the Raft of the Medusa by Gericault (pitching around somewhere near Kos?) 'Cabbage white' caterpillars have shredded nearly every leaf. They gorged, grew fast as broiler chickens and are now hanging off the edge or dying. I feel a bit guilty that they appear to be marooned. Large whites and small whites are on that extinction list.

Nature has been a 'trend' for many years now. In 2008 Honda used an animation of butterflies, birds, bees and blooms to promote diesel engines (the Hate Something Change Something campaign). Childish illustrations of nature curled pretty tendrils around the mainstream. I later enjoyed an ad with a boy in scuba gear dunking his head below the surface of a pond and coming up reeling with the fabulousness of a world teeming with tadpoles, though I seem to recall the product was utterly unrelated. Then there were hard-to-swallow campaigns for the world's best-known burger corp depicting real farmyards with kids welly-deep in muck and straw. 

Katie Humble's pig at Humble By Nature, Wales. Photo Jo Sinclair

The 'isn't nature brilliant' meme continues. The infantilisation of nature spotting (Look what I found! Clever me) rubs it in horribly how we are all to used to the idea that a sighting of a bee (groggy with Neonicotinoid  and infested with varroa mites) is cause for thanks and celebration. But we should carry on sharing the passion. 

Natural England reports that visits to parks and countryside have reached an all time high. Today's exchange of flora and fauna snapshots reminds me of kids comparing marbles. Privet hawk moth: what a beauty, what a whopper! And no, I can't resist posting a photo of some happy honey bees on the last of my passion flowers.
Jo Sinclair

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