Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Purple Manifesto

When elected we shall –

Disband the Forestry Commission and form –

- Woodfuel UK, to promote the sensible use of wood and woods.

- Salix UK, to promote sallow in the landscape throughout lowland Britain, backed by a properly funded version of Forest Research.

All non-native conifers and other arboreal riff-raff to be removed within 25 years.

Felling of sallow trees made a capital offence.

Provide state funding for Butterfly Conservation to carry out research, survey and monitoring, and oversee the development of shrimp paste and other baits for iris.

Abolition of alpacas and llamas, and serious rationalisation of the horsy industry.

Spray all grey squirrels red.

Use of the word ‘biodiversity’ to become a capital offence.

CRoW Act amended to include right of access to all woodland (apart from <15 days during the period 1st October to 31st January), and all fields (margins if arable).

No agricultural field to be larger than 15 acres, with broad headlands, hedges, scrub (+ Salix) belts and plenty of woodland.

All sheep to be excluded from limestone grassland between 1st March and 1st September. Rogue sheep loose on this habitat during this period, or observed ‘worrying’ the Duke of Burgundy Fritillary in any other manner, to be shot on sight.

Horse boxes and caravans permitted to travel only between 10pm and 6am.

All white vans to be painted effeminate pink and banned from outside lanes.

Speed limits reduced to 60mph on motorways and dual carriageways, 50mph on A roads, 40mph on B roads and 30 elsewhere, or 20mph in any residential area. To save fuel, reduce noise and reduce buffeting.

Road verges to be managed for nature (hence reducing buffeting).

Two days per month (rising to four) free of traffic, lawnmowers, chainsaws, clay pigeon shooting etc and aircraft (emergency vehicles only).

Purple Emperor to be established as England’s national emblem, attended by his attendant lord, His Grace the Duke of Burgundy Fritillary.

Salix caprea to be established as England’s national tree.

6 week national holiday from Midsummer Day to 1st August. Clothing optional during this period.

Purple Flag to fly at entrances to all Purple Emperor sites, and from all public buildings etc during this period.

National One Sock Day, 1st July.

Ministries of Happiness and Beauty to be created.

Live test cricket reinstated to BBC TV, and Test Match Special broadcast in public places.

Entomological trade fairs abolished.

Chardonnay grape outlawed.

Not more than 2 non-UK passport holders per football, rugby and county cricket team.

End to targets, monitoring and reporting systems.

End to Organisational Restructuring Disease (change management programmes).

Ban taxonomy and taxonomic name changes.

Health Service
End of government interference.

HM The Queen, all living Prime ministers, the Archbishop of Canterbury and The Pope to apologise publicly for the 20th century boarding school system.

Return of nature table, old fashioned geography and The Classics, to include Roman Studies and Greek studies. Abolition of French, poetry and compulsory subjects.

New degree courses in promiscuity, drunkenness, etc, along Roman principles.

Reinstatement of student grant system.

No other government intervention.

How will we fund this?
Immediate withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, Iraq etc, and firm commitment against further interventions.

Prat Tax on all material nonsense goods such as jet skis (large) and fingernail extensions (small).

50% income tax from £60,000-£100,000, thereafter 75%. Bankers and Chief Exec bonuses to be taxed at 75%.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Larval Doings

Visited surviving wild larvae on Saturday. One had died - shrivelled up. A week ago it had looked fine and seemed poised to start feeding.

Most have started to feed, though four of them rather jumped the gun and had bitten into leaf buds that had yet to start unfurling, though three are feeding properly on baby leaves. Three have moved short distances (10-25cm). Five are still lying in waiting, for their chosen leaf buds to start unfurling. There's a problem here for them, as they seem to choose leaf buds at random, rather that pick early developers. For example, two aligned themselves next to dead buds, which begs the question of whether they too will desiccate and die. I fear for them... .

In captivity, one late larva woke up on Saturday (>2 weeks after the others) and immediately started to feed. These larvae are all on non-flowering bushes, which came into leaf much earlier than trees in the wild (which flower before leafing). This means they have a great advantage in that they do not have to wait, post hibernation, for leaf buds to open. Yet the females do not select early-leafing trees in the wild.

I have, though, lost one more captive larva to desiccation (and three all told). This seems to be a problem familiar to those who breed iris. But does anyone have a theory as to what causes it? (I've never breed the species in any numbers, so my sample size has always been too small). It may be due to larvae simply running out of fuel prior to beginning to feed properly, in which case selecting early-leafing trees / branches would be a distinct advantage. Ideas please?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Iris on Radio 4

The monarch of all the butterflies will be featured in Radio 4's Saving Species programme on Tues April 20th at 11am, as an update on Larval Doings in a Wiltshire Wood. It looks as though the programme wont be repeated on Thurs evening as there's a primeministerial debate then instead (!), so catch it on Iplayer if you miss it on Tues.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Vote Purple!

Yes, on May 6th Vote Purple. You know it makes sense. It's easy - just walk into the polling booth wearing one sock, write Apatura iris above the first name on your ballet paper and put a large X by it - oh, and cross out all the riff-raff names below. We will be returned to parliament with an overwhelming mandate to govern, and govern we will ... Never mind the Blues, Yellows and Greens, they are but flotsam in the political world. We are Purple and we will Rule...
Thank you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Feeding and Further Doings

Both Dennis Dell and I can report iris larvae starting to feed in captivity. Neither of us has suffered any significant winter losses amongst captive larvae (yet... but they can suddenly desiccate at this time of year). One of my captive larvae is still hibernating.

In the wild, all bar one of my surviving larvae have moved out of hibernation and are in the departure loungue - lined up alongside an opening leaf bud prior to starting to feed, and changing colour in the process. Their problem is that the trees flower before leafing, so the larvae have to wait. No losses (to predation or worse) since mid March, which is good news. The one still in hibernation is on an incredibly late narrow-leaved sallow, where there is no sign of swelling leaf buds or flowering.

First we sleep the winter, then we dance the spring...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Doings: Fri April 9th

Recording a new piece for Radio 4's Saving Species programme today in a Wiltshire wood. I checked 9 larvae, of which all bar one had woken out of hibernation. Mostly, they've repositioned themselves next to nearby swelling leaf buds, but a couple had travelled 30-40cm. One who had hibernated on a dead branch had repositioned himself 40cm away next to a living leaf bud, though I daresay he'd journeyed more than 40cm. None has started feeding yet, though two may start very soon. Mostly, they seem to be on rather late-leafing sallows - trees that flower before coming into leaf. So, lots of hanging about waiting - rather like being in an airport departure lounge...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

They're at it again.... Fighting. I looked at my captive larvae at 6.45pm, and two were fighting already, over possession of one opening leaf bud - and they've only just woken up from 5 month's snooze. This insect is ridiculously irascible....

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Someone seems to have planted sallow cuttings in the tiny bays off the main ride in Straits Inclosure, Alice Holt, using cuttings taken from the felled sallows. How absolutely marvellous! However, the best technique is probably to knock rods of stems 1m long and as thick as your thumb in as deep as possible. This worked very well in Pamber Forest 20 years back.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Gentlemen, Lady.
I am pleased to report that none of the surviving wild iris larvae I have been following has gone missing since my last visit (on 14th March). Quite remarkable as they were vanishing at 2-3 a week during Feb and early March, presumably to tit predation. The tit flocks have now split up, mercifully.

One larva has moved from its hibernation spot, the scar of a vanished spray, and travelled 30cm up to lie beside a swelling leaf bud. This was the first larva to enter hibernation, on Oct 23rd. All have greened up a lot, some totally.

Most of the breeding trees are just starting to flower, though only one or two leaf buds are beginning to open. Most larvae are next to opening flower buds, though some are next to leaf buds that haven't swollen at all. At this stage it seems that the butterfly has not selected trees that come into leaf early, or late, but watch this space on that.

Back home, half of my few captive larvae have moved to reposition themselves next to buds and are greening up, but the rest are still comatose.

And I found a mid-final instar Pearl-bordered Fritillary larva early this morning, suggesting that Euphrosyne, Queen of the Spirits of the Month of May, might start during the 2nd week of May.

And I saw my first swallow of the year.

And the rather scarce bumblebee-mimic hoverfly Criorhina ranunculi.

And apparently one of my daughters got up before noon......


Thursday, April 1, 2010

1) Listen out for a piece on His Imperial Majesty, in larval form, on
BBC Radio 4's Saving Species programme, on Tues April 6th at 11am,
repeated on Thurs April 8th at 9pm.

2) Movement! I am pleased to report that one of my larvae has moved out
of hibernation low on a stem and has positioned itself next to a
swelling bud. A few of them are starting to change colour. Spring is
in the air!

3) Straits Inclosure, Alice Holt Forest. To update you on the saga of
the felling of sallows along the main ride through Straits Inclosure.
The issue was taken up by the UK Butterflies and Learn About Butterflies
websites, and in consequence the FC office at Alice Holt received a
significant number of complaints from butterfly enthusiasts. Whether
the FC will be able to change their practices along made-up rides (which
they call roads) is another matter, as these surfaces are civil
engineering constructions that have to meet certain specifications. The
real challenge in Straits, and many other forestry woods, is to
establish sallow sanctuaries off-ride along the forest roads, rides and
paths, away from the drainage ditches, by cutting back the crop locally.
The overlying problem is that the crop generally reaches right to the
roads / rides / paths / tracks. The FC is keen to create more of these
off-line sallow areas, and to that end three sizeable scallops were
created off the main ride in Straits during the sensitive thinning works
carried out in the east half of the wood during the autumn of 2007.
Sallows are becoming established in these scallops, though the process
could be speeded up by planting cuttings or seedlings. Further scallops
need to be created when thinning takes place in the western half of the
wood. There are some useful experiments along these lines in the FC's
Chiddingfold Forest.

The saga emphasises several things. First, the importance of
communication, even when relationships are good. Secondly, the scale of
protest indicates the growing love people have for our forests, and the
increasing expectations being placed on those who manage them (no way
would other conservation bodies have got away with ride-side felling
like that!). Thirdly, it illustrates the extent to which this
particular butterfly is becoming valued - and we will ensure that this
will grow further. Finally, butterfly people have the potential to
become quite an effective lobby. Of course, to people of Purple
Persuasion the Straits Inclosure is the equivalent of one of the lesser

Meanwhile, spring continues to be very slow. The weather has
deteriorated into cold and wet. I've only seen four species.