The Wasp Piñata

Wasps! Urgh! What are they good for? Absolutely nothing! Well, you’d think so by the amount of cursing they get around this time of year. People really don’t like wasps, but wasps can’t resist coming to have a look at – and taste of – the interesting things people like to do outside. So conflict inevitably ensures… or at least a lot of flapping about and yelling. But something the Ranger recently spotted at a local market just might hold a solution for the age-old impasse between irate human and yellow-jacketed hymenopteran.


What is this bizarre thing? And what has it to do with wasps? Continue reading The Wasp Piñata

Giant water bug from Ecuador

We heard you wanted to see a picture of a simply gigantic water bug.

Giant water bug © Kevin via

So here it is. This is a giant belostomatid water bug. This picture is from the website Fishpondinfo and was taken in Ecuador by Kevin from Kentucky. These bugs are the largest insects in the order Hemiptera, and occur in freshwater habitats in a range of locations worldwide, mostly in North and South America and East Asia. They have some unusual reproductive habits, and are also particularly popular in Thailand: can you guess why? Continue reading Giant water bug from Ecuador

Glum councillors

Of course, this would never happen on the Isle of Wight. No, sir. And even if it did, it would quite literally be more than my job’s worth to blog about it. But apparently local politicians have a bit of a penchant for appearing in the media pointing at stuff. Kissing babies is just so 1930s, it seems. Pointing is the new way to get elected.

Councillor Phil Moffatt investigates the pothole crisis at Fieldton Road

Councillor Phil Moffatt of Croxteth investigates
the pothole crisis at Fieldton Road

Now there’s a new blog collating all these splendid images for our entertainment and maybe even to publicise the good work our local councillors do, in their own time, for the good of the community. Oh, and to take the mickey out of them. Just a little bit. Continue reading Glum councillors

So why are clouds classified anyway?

Great news, friends, those crazy scientists have discovered a new type of cloud! Actually, it’s not even scientists but some well-meaning amateur who’s formed the Cloud Appreciation Society. News outlets all over the world have eagerly fixed on what could possibly be classed as a bit of good news – or at least not obviously bad anyway.

Asperatus cloud

The Telegraph explains:

Experts at the Royal Meteorological Society are now attempting to have the new cloud type, which has been named “Asperatus” after the Latin word for rough, officially added to the international nomenclature scheme used by forecasters to identify clouds. If successful, it will be the first variety of cloud to be classified since 1953.

Well good for them. I’ll bet those boffins at the Royal Meteorological Society were delighted when the Cloud Appreciation Society chap floated past, putting them in the media spotlight for a moment or two. Continue reading So why are clouds classified anyway?

Insect Sex Education and much more

Sometimes one just has to step back and applaud. Now’s one of those times: The Ranger has just spent a considerable time wandering the virtual halls of the small science collective (via Bug Girl’s Blog).

Insect Sex Ed

They’ve had the inspired idea of collecting and making little print-outable PDF booklets about all sorts of invertebrate-themed topics, in the most delightfully lighthearted and readable format. Continue reading Insect Sex Education and much more

Do hedgehogs need their fleas?

On the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘The Unbelievable Truth’ recently, the claim was made that “hedgehogs will die without their fleas“. This, if true, is remarkable. How could a mammal depend directly on fleas, and what would happen to the dear little hogs if deprived of their fleas?

Archaeopsylla erinacei, the hedgehog flea

Is there any truth in it, or was the BBC a bit wide of the mark? Continue reading Do hedgehogs need their fleas?

How you got here… and why.

After getting a link from the BBC website The Ranger delved into his website statistics to gloat over the millions of people referred from it. Sadly, he couldn’t find more than a handful. Maybe gribbles just don’t do it for people any more… or at any rate, they certainly don’t as much as Britney Spears appears to. Whilst deep in the engine-room The Ranger took a look at the things that people type into search engines before they arrive at Naturenet:

Naturenet stats October 2007

Statistics for the month of October 2007 to date.

And you thought this website was all about wildlife and conservation, eh? Or, if (as seems to be statistically likely) you actually came here looking for pictures of Britney naked, you perhaps meant to end up here… although some say it looks more like Paris Hilton nude, or Lindsey Lohan going topless… or… well, you get the idea. There are no such pictures on Naturenet really but let’s see how those little phrases affect the statistics. Check out the latest arrivals in ‘Popular search terms‘ at the bottom of the sidebar.

So, what should a graduate know?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are a few things every little boy should know. Similarly, there are things no girl should go into the world without knowing.

Naughty kids!
You need to be able to do this for a start

So The Ranger was delighted when, exploring the spiffy new website of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, he discovered a page of advice for budding ecologists – after all, they’re regularly emailing his ‘Ask The Ranger‘ page and asking how to start a career in that sort of thing. Although a ranger and an ecologist are not necessarily the same thing, it’s one possible specialism for the countryside professional. One of the most popular of all the hundreds of pages on Naturenet (ranked 5th this month) has long been ‘Get a job working in the countryside industry, Naturenet shows you how‘. So The Ranger was wandering through the IEEM’s advice, and thinking benevolently about recommending it to some of the supplicants who come seeking his wisdom. Amongst the handy guides to download is a little pamphlet called “What a Graduate Should Know“. The Ranger was idly reading through this when his nonchalant mood began to suddenly dissipate. After all, he’s a Chartered Environmentalist which makes him really, really knowledgeable… or does it? Some random extracts from the pamphlet:

Describe the main systems for mapping habitat types (Phase 1 habitat survey and/or broad habitats) and identify the main groupings of habitats within these. Describe the structure of the NVC tables and the three major groupings within it. Describe the approaches to identifying NVC communities based on quadrat data and critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of each approach… List and describe the main methods available to statistically analyse data including parametric and non-parametric approaches…

If that’s what they’re teaching graduates these days, that’s pretty impressive stuff. He’d have a good go, but suffice it to say that if The Ranger was today obliged to pass a test on ‘What a graduate should know’ he might be slinking out of the exam with his tail between his legs. Maybe too many years have passed since his happy days frolicking around a laboratory full of locusts; and of those years, more have been spent balancing budgets and writing reports than actually out learning about ecology. So here’s some simple advice for all aspirant ecologists – or rangers who fancy developing their ecological field skills. Don’t only worry about professional qualifications. Learn and enjoy your trade by going out to do some good, science-based ecology, and keep doing it. Experience will develop those skills, and you’ll be able to test your knowledge against ‘What a graduate should know’ – and see how you do!