Tuesday 20 September 2022

Songs for World Peace are good for the world of nature too

Songs for World Peace benefit the environment and animals too

Tomorrow is International Peace Day and I am one of many artists worldwide taking part in the Wake Up, Rise Up, LIVE4Peace concert. I knew I wanted to be involved in this as soon as I heard about it, and I always think that peace is not just what humans need because it means a healthy environment in which animals benefit too. Consider war-torn Ukraine right now where countless abandoned dogs and cats are suffering and dying. Animals in a war-zone, besides being terrified, can easily get lost if they run away in fear, and others sadly get abandoned by people who have to leave where they have been living in a hurry. Many cats and dogs get trapped in buildings, some get seriously wounded and killed, just like people can too.

War brings death and destruction. With gunfire and rockets being fired, there is often no let up for days. Think about how scared pet dogs and cats get on the one night of Bonfire Night, and by celebratory fireworks. In a war the loud noises and explosions don’t stop after a few hours.

Wars can destroy forests and wildlife habitats too. I am thinking of the horror of what happened with the spraying of Agent Orange herbicide in the war against Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s. The U.S. military used the poisonous substance as a defoliant so there was no longer any cover or hiding places created by the trees. It worked well from the point of view of destroying forest trees but it also drastically reduced biodiversity and had long lasting harmful effects on millions of humans who were exposed to the chemicals. Dioxins from Agent Orange persist in the environment causing harm to man and beast. The herbicide is associated with many forms of cancer and with birth defects. Agent Orange was also used on agricultural land to destroy crops.

Far more recently there was a lot of worry about the Russian forces in the Chernobyl area. Chernobyl has become noted as a region contaminated with nuclear radiation that caused humans to abandon it but where over the years, the world of nature has reclaimed the land and very many species of fauna and flora have been living. In some cases it is said that there are more of some types of animal living there now than when people were living in the nearby city of Pripayat.

It was feared that the recent Russian occupation of Chernobyl could undo everything, and that the area could become highly contaminated again and a threat to surrounding parts of the world. War is a very great danger to the world of nature as well as to the world of humans, and that is why I am singing for peace. Wake Up, Rise Up, LIVE4Peace have arranged it so that artists taking part can collect donations towards any charities of their choice. I have chosen The Rotary Club of Wyndham Harbour, which I am a member of. Rotary Clubs worldwide have world peace as one of the many goals being worked for. Please join us in taking action for peace. Even thinking peace, is a good place to start, which is why the late John Lennon, who was famous not only for being one of The Beatles but for his peace-campaigning with his wife Yoko Ono, advised us to THINK PEACE! 

Tuesday 13 September 2022

The Death’s-head Hawk-moth must have a very difficult life

The mysterious life of the Death’s-head Hawk-moth

Death’s-head Hawk-moth. Photo: Steve Andrews

The Death’s-head Hawk-moth (Acherontia atropos) is a very remarkable insect in many ways. Once seen it will never be forgotten with its skull-like marking on the back of its thorax, dark but beautifully patterned wings, its massive size, and stout furry banded body. But this hawkmoth must lead a very difficult life, and it doesn’t surprise me that it is rare. The Death’s-head Hawk-moth’s main food is apparently honey and it steals this from beehives. It is even known as the “Bee Robber.” So one of the first things the insect must do in its life is locate a hive, not so easy these days with the terrible decline in honeybees, said to be due to Colony Collapse Disorder. It then has to enter the home of the bees, find the honeycomb and use its short proboscis to break through the wax to steal the sweet liquid.

There are theories about how it manages to do this without being attacked by angry bees. One theory is that it emits a smell that causes the bees to leave it alone because it mimics the scent of the bees. It appears that the moth requires the stimulus of being in a hive to go about feeding. In captivity if supplied with honey on a pad it won’t touch this. Websites with details of caring for the moth say that the only way to feed it is to carefully hold the insect and unroll the proboscis so that it goes into a mixture of honey and water. Although the moths will struggle, it is said that after one or two attempts they will learn to feed this way and will take their food on future days. I cannot confirm this because I have to admit I have given up with my attempts and have released moths in my care. The Death’s-head Hawk-moth also squeaks quite loudly when alarmed, and it is definitely alarmed when held for attempted force feeding. My question is why won’t it feed itself? Otherwise in published literature there is very little information about how the adults feed. In a very few places I have read that they also take tree sap and resin, have been known to puncture fruit, accept rotting fruit,  and even that they take the nectar from a Petunia flower, not the normal way but by breaking into the part of the flower that holds the nectar. I have left a moth with a pad soaked in honey and water, and also with Petunia flowers and the moth ignored all of it. Literature on these moths also maintain that this hawkmoth will not attempt to mate until the males have fed and until a few days have gone by. So even if you have males and females emerging around the same time it is still not easy to get them to mate. You have to find a way to feed them, and need somewhere to keep the insects safely where they do not damage their wings trying to escape. In my experience this moth emerges from its pupa at night and soon after the wings are dried it wants to fly. I have had them eclose in the early hours of the morning. I have read that the moth flies very late at night, and this appears to be correct. Researching the Death’s-head Hawk-moth fails to turn up much information that I haven’t given here. I am wondering whether these moths do feed otherwise but have not been studied well enough for anyone to know how they feed or what on.

  Death’s-head Hawk-moth caterpillar. Photo: Steve Andrews

The caterpillars are another matter though, and the information on them today is far, far greater than when I was a boy. Books on insects many years ago used to say the caterpillar fed on the foliage of the Potato, possibly on the Jasmine too, and that was about it. Nowadays the reported range these huge larvae can eat is very  wide indeed. Besides Potato and Jasmine, it is known to feed on Deadly Nightshade, Woody Nightshade, Snowberry, Thornapple, Tree Tobacco, Tomato, Hemp, Lantana, Olive, Privet, Lilac, Buddleia and Tulip Tree. I have found them on Thornapple in Tenerife and Lantana there. I suspect the caterpillar can also feed on Sea Grape because I encountered a wandering larva once in a shopping precinct where the only vegetation present was on some specimens of this tree. Unlike many species, the caterpillar of the Death’s-head Hawk-moth is almost spoiled for choice. Nevertheless I have found they don’t like to switch plants that they have been eating. Larvae reared on Privet expect more Privet. Besides the unusual feeding habits of the adult moths, I wonder what causes some of them to embark on lengthy migrations, including those in which it flies over the seas. This species has been found as far north as the Shetland Islands in the UK, but clearly could not withstand the winters up there, which would be far too cold. It is said that this species cannot get through winters in Britain elsewhere. What causes it to migrate? How does it decide which direction to fly? How does it find beehives? The Death’s-head Hawk-moth is a very mysterious moth don’t you agree?

Thursday 1 September 2022

Could Lisbon play host to an Ocean Aid concert

 Is Lisbon the ideal city for an Ocean Aid concert? 

Steve Andrews interviewed at a Rock in Rio Lisboa concert

This summer, Lisbon was the city chosen to hold the UN Ocean Conference, a week-long event attended by thousands. Celebrities, including Aquaman star Jason Momoa, and oceanographer, explorer and author Dr Sylvia Earle, were among the many special guest speakers. There was extensive media coverage for the conference in which very great numbers of organisations concerned with saving the seas and the marine life in them took part.

went along to the event myself and came away feeling inspired, and thinking this: if Lisbon is where a United Nations conference can be held with the theme being saving the oceans, wouldn’t the city also make the perfect place to hold an Ocean Aid rock concert? I came up with the idea of Ocean Aid when I penned my song “Where Does All The Plastic Go?”

I have blogged about it before. I have talked about my idea in any media interviews I have had worldwide. I even have a book with a chapter all about it. Saving Mother Ocean, which was endorsed by Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd, explains how I thought such an event could follow in the footsteps of Live Aid, but this time raising awareness about the many threats to the oceans and to raise funds for charitable organisations working on saving the seas.
I was thinking Lisbon would be perfect, not only for me because I live near the city, but far more importantly, because there are two well-known concert promoters here that stage really big all day outdoor music events. I am talking about Rock In Rio Lisboa and NOS Alive. I have been to Rock In Rio Lisboa concerts in Lisbon. One of the acts I saw here was Bruce Springsteen back in 2016. I mention “The Boss” because he is an example of the type of very high profile rock stars that have performed at a Rock in Rio concert. Concert organisers and promoters like Rock In Rio Lisboa and NOS Alive know what it takes to put on really big events. They know the sort of money that is needed, they know what it takes to successfully run such concerts, they have the right contacts in the music industry. And, again very important, there are parks in Lisbon that can be used to stage these events. In other words, we have it all here, everything that would be needed to put on an Ocean Aid Lisboa concert. I would choose Sea Shepherd to be the charity that funds could be raised for. Mick Jagger, Coldplay and Steven Tyler, are some very big name acts that I know support this organisation. As it happens, Coldplay are already going to be playing four concerts here in Portugal next year. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they also performed an Ocean Aid concert? I need to get my idea to the right people. I have tried sending messages to Rock In Rio and to NOS Alive but no replies as yet. I am sure they get thousands of people contacting them, so I am not that surprised I have had no response. Maybe this blog will get seen by someone from Rock In Rio Lisboa or NOS Alive, maybe some other big concert organiser will see it? If they do, hopefully they will like my idea and will help me make an Ocean Aid concert a reality in Portugal?