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Flaming June, Bob's pond, longhorn beetle and xylella and cuckoo spit

Date posted: Wednesday 12th June 2019

Flaming June, Bob's pond, longhorn beetle and xylella and cuckoo spit

A month’s rain fell on Monday – 56mm in the water gauge and everything lushly wet and looking much refreshed, with the soil damp down to a good depth! Flaming June – still damp, grey and the sound of various outside drips and drops outside, and as I type, yet more heavy downpours. At least the roads into the site have now been improved so no more huge puddles to navigate on the bike! Good news for all the ground feeders and the newly resident blackbird seems to have an extra lubricated song, but the bees are hunkering down in their hives and no sign of swifts or swallows overhead. My pond’s filled up nicely and it’s a relief not to have to be watering the squash, courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes on an almost daily basis – rain water so much better for growing things than anything from the tap..

And talking water, there is a fine new pond on the site, with just the right conditions for wildlife to flourish in, and Bob forwarded this photo of a new visitor to his pond a week ago. His pond is furnished with the requisite shallow, sloping area for frogs and others to get in and out and it has depth in the middle for overwintering creatures.

I was intrigued by this splendid beetle foraging on the daisies in my fruit cage; further research identified it as a black and yellow longhorn beetle, quite widespread and common. Whenever I find a new insect there’s always the anticipation that it might be some rare and unusual species that the London Natural History Society will get excited by, but nothing so far!

But a common insect that we all recognise is attracting national attention and we’re being asked to to log and record findings of cuckoo spit, caused by froghopper/spittlebug nyphhs, to help track the possible spread of the devastating xylella disease. I spotted this cuckoo spit on St John’s wort and will send the info. This is from the RHS website:

Froghoppers and Xylella
Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterial disease of a wide range of plants and causes symptoms including leaf scorch, wilt, dieback and plant death. It is causing serious problems in Southern Europe but it has not been detected in Britain. The disease is spread by insects that feed on the xylem of plants. This includes froghoppers.

Xylella is not in the UK but could be introduced through the importation of infected plants. The RHS is a partner in a collaborative project which aims to understand and prevent the introduction of vector-borne plant pathogens, especially Xyllela, to the UK and the challenges they pose to the UK flora. The BRIGIT project has been funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Scottish Government to reduce this risk and to increase our capability to respond to an outbreak. The project is being undertaken by scientists in ten UK research organisations led by the John Innes Centre.
Cuckoo spit (spittlebug) survey
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is calling on gardeners, nature lovers and citizen scientists to help the UK respond to the threat of Xylella fastidiosa. Working with the University of Sussex and Forest Research, we need thousands of volunteers to help map the distribution of spittlebugs. The data will help inform strategies to deal with any outbreak of Xylella in the UK.
Any sightings can be reported online here. Alternatively, please visit www.xylem feeding
Spittlebugs are not a pest, so please don’t remove them, but they are an innocent carrier of Xylella outside of the UK. The survey helps us gather data to inform a response should Xylella reach the UK. (Cuckoo spit (spittlebugs) / RHS Gardening

We’re running a forum/talk on gardening for wildlife on 7 July, with Stephen James from the Environment Trust, organised by Ruth. Hoping for a good turn out and perhaps we can dispel some of the common misconceptions and encourage more plotholders to manage their plots in a way that supports biodiversity and ecosystems on which we all depend – ‘What Has Gardening For Wildlife Ever Done For Me’?!