Latest news and blogs on rebugging

Bugs would choose organic – tell the new PM

The Organic Trade Board and its members have started a petition to BUG THE NEW PM: Save nature in your first 100 days of government. Please do sign it here.

A key part of rebugging is being part of the movement for change so please do sign if you can. And share the petition with friends, family, anyone you can!

Here’s their pitch if you need more info:

Nature’s keyworkers such as earthworms, ladybirds and bees don’t have a voice. They have no choice in the matter when it comes to the harmful pesticides and fertilisers that are being sprayed on crops, which is ultimately leading to their decline. We need you to help make their voices heard.

Not only are insects a vital part of a balanced ecosystem, providing food for other animals and recycling nutrients, they also play an essential role in our global food system. One in three mouthfuls of food depends on pollinators and without pollinators we wouldn’t have potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, coffee, chocolate or cotton.

Organic farming works with nature, not against it, encouraging natural predators like ladybirds and pollinators like bees and butterflies rather than spraying harmful pesticides. As a result, on average, plant, insect and bird life is 50% more abundant on organic farms. There are up to seven times more wild bees in organic grain fields. So if nature did have a voice – it would choose organic. 

If pesticides were substituted for more sustainable farming practices (like organic), this could slow or reverse the decline in insects.

In the build up to Organic September 2022, the Organic Trade Board (OTB), its partners and 150 members, on behalf of the UK organic industry, is using this petition to give nature a voice for the very first time. 

On behalf of nature, the OTB is requesting that in their first 100 days of government, the new Prime Minister commits to protecting nature in any policies – and represents the UK at the crucially important UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in December.

The hope is that even tiny insect-sized steps can make a big difference when it comes to keeping nature’s crucial keyworkers thriving.

Illustration by children’s author and illustrator, Kate Pankhurst, who is also a relation of the Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst

Latest news and blogs on rebugging

Rebugging The Farm

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of ‘rebugging the farm’ lately. This was partly prompted by a wonderful session I did with two great bug lovers Gillian Burke of BBC SpringWatch fame (who also wrote the forward to my book) and the great dung beetle advocate Sally-Ann Spence @minbeastmayhem and @berrycroft_hub) at the Oxford Farming Conference in January 2022.

It was great fun and so interesting to hear from them both. You can watch the exchange here

Afterwards I was recalling the days I have spent on farms over the years and what I’ve learnt. It takes a fair bit for farmers to embrace the bugs after all these years of trying to remove them. I put a fair bit in the book but there is so much to say and so little space! A few thoughts I want to record here and I may expand on this…

  1. ‘It takes a whole village’ – To rebug the farm takes a whole food community – not only the farmer and their staff…but those that supply inputs to the farm – because these will have to change (pesticide reductions, introducing new tools, knowledge, finance!), and those that buy the produce (because what is produced may look different, less ‘perfect’, or just a different crop to suit the needs of the new system) and everyone in between.
  2. It takes a whole lifetime probably … mistakes will be made and farmers will sometimes have to go backwards to accommodate a less than responsive market.. If the produce buyers demand perfection its hard to leave the bugs alone and bugs are an unreliable bunch at the best of times and we have a climate crisis ahead .. and so on. Dung beetles are a great case in point but can be coaxed back with the right measures, stock, and understanding and will reward your efforts a hundred fold.
  3. It takes a willingness to embrace diversity and more complexity and more knowledge on the whole farm – with more rotations, different breeds of crop or livestock, and a more knowledge-input less chemical approach. Mixing livestock with crops and trees will be more suitable in many situations, moving away from the specialisation we’ve come to expect. Farmer to farmer learning will be key.
  4. It takes a bit of mess – more places the useful bugs can find a refuge, a nesting place, a food source… rebugging usually likes more mess.

But in return

  • It gives more beauty, wildlife and natural rewards which a farmer can bank and bank for the next generation of farmer to come
  • It can save costs – those biological controls may be a bit unreliable but they costs little, will self replicate each year and don’t need to be sprayed around taking machinery, fuel and time. Yields may go down but so will costs and the bottom line may not suffer. You may find more reward in the market place too if you can sell more direct or get an accreditation that means better prices or a more conscientious buyer.
  • It will probably gain you more support from the taxpayer as grants will be based on providing ‘public goods’ like more wildlife and protected water courses. Markets are strong for organic produce which always holds more invertebrates because the organic farmer needs them to do the work – keeping pests at bay and building soil fertility.

Just a few thoughts on why rebugging the farm is a thing..

There are many more great experts out there too willing and able to share. I will post some contacts but for starters

Innovate Farmers

Soil Association

Organic Farmers and Growers

Organic Research Centre

Nature Friendly Farmers Network

Pesticides Action Network UK

John Cherry’s farm, Hertfordshire