‘Exeplore’ Podcast – grounds, gardening and green fingers

The University of Exeter has launched a official podcast called Exeplore and each episode will explore a different topic with students, staff and alumni; aiming to celebrate the richness of life within their global community.

Iain Park, Assistant Director of Grounds, joins them on the most recent episode to discuss why and how the university grounds offer such a great space for students, staff, plants, trees animals, wildlife, birds, and insects to thrive in.

Also discussed is the impact the COVID-19 lockdown had on the grounds in spring 2020.

Listen to the podcast at:

Spotify http://ex.ac.uk/crq

Apple Podcasts http://ex.ac.uk/crr

More information on the Wellbeing Walks that Iain talks about can be found at http://ex.ac.uk/crh

If you’re interested in keeping up to date with what’s going on in the grounds, follow the Grounds Instagram @universityofexetergrounds https://www.instagram.com/universityofexetergrounds/

 

Update on biological control treatment of Mealybugs

An update and photos from Drew, one of our amazing Horticultural Apprentices, on the biological treatment being carried out on the Ficus trees in The Forum Street:

“So yesterday at work I got to apply biological controls to our very poorly Ficus trees. They are suffering from a serious bout of Mealybug which suck the sap and are vectors for diseases. To help combat this in an eco-friendly way, we have applied a healthy dose of Australian ladybirds (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) which will spend the next few weeks munching on the Mealybugs and hopefully leaving the Ficus much happier”.

The predator insects, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, being placed on the Ficus trees

The predator insects, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, being placed on the Ficus trees

A Cryptolaemus montrouzieri on its way to eat a Mealybug

One of the Ficus trees wrapped in the fleece to prevent the insects from escaping

All the Ficus trees wrapped in the fleece to prevent the insects from escaping

Ghostly going ons?

Ghostly going ons in The Forum? Don’t worry our Ficus trees haven’t turned into huge ghosts!

The trees have a Mealybug infestation, so we are introducing predatory insects (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) to deal with them.

Mealybug

Cryptolaemus are harmless to people, pets and wildlife and will not become a pest in their own right.

Cryptolaemus montrouzieri

By using predatory insects as an organic form of biological control, we are avoiding the use of harmful pesticides.

The fleece coverings have been placed over the trees to keep the process and insects contained.

These information sheets have been produced by our Horticultural Apprentices and will be on display next to the Ficus trees to explain the process to passerbys.

New Research – big bumblebees learn locations of best flowers

Big bumblebees take time to learn the locations of the best flowers, new research shows.

Meanwhile smaller bumblebees – which have a shorter flight range and less carrying capacity – don’t pay special attention to flowers with the richest nectar.

University of Exeter scientists examined the “learning flights” which most bees perform after leaving flowers.

Honeybees are known to perform such flights – and the study shows bumblebees do the same, repeatedly looking back to memorise a flower’s location.

“It might not be widely known that pollinating insects learn and develop individual flower preferences, but in fact bumblebees are selective,” said Natalie Hempel de Ibarra, Associate Professor at Exeter’s Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour.

“On leaving a flower, they can actively decide how much effort to put into remembering its location.

Bumblebee flower

Bumblebees carry out “learning flights” after leaving flowers (credit: Natalie Hempel de Ibarra)

Bumblebees carry out “learning flights” after leaving flowers (credit: Natalie Hempel de Ibarra)

“The surprising finding of our study is that a bee’s size determines this decision making and the learning behaviour.”

In the study, captive bees visited artificial flowers containing sucrose (sugar) solution of varying concentrations.

The larger the bee, the more its learning behaviour varied depending on the richness of the sucrose solution.

Smaller bees invested the same amount of effort in learning the locations of the artificial flowers, regardless of whether sucrose concentration was high or low.

“The differences we found reflect the different roles of bees in their colonies,” said Professor Hempel de Ibarra.

“Large bumblebees can carry larger loads and explore further from the nest than smaller ones.

“Small ones with a smaller flight range and carrying capacity cannot afford to be as selective, so they accept a wider range of flowers.

“These small bees tend to be involved more with tasks inside the nest – only going out to forage if food supplies in the colony are running low.”

The study was conducted in collaboration with scientists from the University of Sussex.

The bees were observed in greenhouses at the University of Exeter’s award-winning Streatham Campus, and Professor Hempel de Ibarra thanked the university’s Grounds and Gardens team for their continued support.

The study was funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

The paper, published in the journal Current Biology, is entitled: “Small and large bumblebees invest differently when learning about flowers.”

Green Flag Award 2020/21 Winner!

We are delighted to announce that we have again successfully achieved the prestigious Green Flag Award for both our Streatham Campus and our St Luke’s Campus!

The Award is the mark of a quality park or green space which has achieved the international standards for open space excellence.

The Grounds team work hard throughout the year using their extensive skills and experience to nurture our beautiful grounds and we are extremely proud of this achievement and the wonderful grounds that we have the privilege to work in and enjoy.

Sustainable Practices – seed propagation and plants grown in-house

We have been busy with seed propagation this week in our Estate Services Centre Nursery.

The cuttings are soft-wood material using the techniques of nodal, heel and mallet cuttings.

This important work, of growing plants in-house and planting them on campus and by residences, means that we are reducing our carbon footprint, working within our sustainability practices and reducing costs.

  

RoSPA Best New Entry UK Winner

We are delighted to announce that the University of Exeter’s Grounds Team is the RoSPA Best New Entry UK winner!

This is in addition to the RoSPA Health & Safety Gold Award that we have won.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is a recognised world wide industry leader in health and safety excellence.

These awards recognise the systems and processes we have in place to protect our staff working in areas of potential high risk and that we ensure all our staff understand how to keep themselves and others safe.

Mindfulness and Family Activities

It has been proven that mindfulness provides numerous health benefits, enabling you to relax, forget your worries and focus on the present.

We have created a series of mindfulness colouring pages depicting University of Exeter campus locations, as well as several wildlife images, to help enhance and boost your wellbeing.

They are also great fun for children!

Please feel free to download them and enjoy.

Colouring Page – University of Exeter Plaque

Download Colouring Page – University of Exeter Plaque

Colouring Page – St Luke’s Campus

Download Colouring Page – St Luke’s Campus

Colouring Page – Bird

Download Colouring Page – Bird

Colouring Page – Washington Singer Building

Download Colouring Page – Washington Singer Building

Colouring Page – Exeter Word

Download Colouring Page – Exeter Word

Colouring Page – Butterfly

Download Colouring Page – Butterfly

Colouring Page – Sculpture

Download Colouring Page – Sculpture

Colouring Page – Northcote House Clock Tower

Download Colouring Page – Northcote House Clock Tower

Hedgehog Awareness Week – 3rd to 9th May 2020

It’s Hedgehog Awareness Week, so we thought it would be a good time to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them, especially as we are spending more time in our gardens at the moment.

There are many simple things we can all do to help hedgehogs:

  • Create a log pile that will offer shelter and food.
  • Cover drains or deep holes.
  • Avoid using pesticides and slug pellets in your garden, not only can these harm hedgehogs but also damage their food chain. Use organic methods instead.
  • Make sure hedgehogs have easy access to your garden. Ensure boundary fences or walls have a 13cm x 13cm gap in the bottom to allow hedgehogs to pass through.
  • Keep a corner of your garden wild to offer shelter, protection and natural food for hedgehogs and other wildlife.
  • Encourage hedgehogs into your garden, but you should never just move one in from another area, as it may well have a nest of dependent young that you would be condemning to death.
  • Provide a shallow dish of fresh water for all wildlife, and food such as hedgehog food, meaty cat or dog food or cat biscuits for hedgehogs, especially during long dry spells.
  • Make or buy a hedgehog home (see plans), this offers a hibernation site safe from predators in the winter. It may also be used as a nesting box for a mother and her hoglets in the warmer months.
  • Check areas thoroughly for hedgehogs and other wildlife before strimming or mowing.
  • Keep pea netting 22-30cms (9 – 12”) off the ground so hedgehogs can pass under
    and plants will grow to the netting.
  • Dispose of litter responsibly. Every year hedgehogs are injured by litter and starve to death by getting trapped in discarded rubbish.
  • Bonfires offer a tempting home for a hedgehog. Ideally collected materials should be re-sited just before the fire is to be lit, if this is not possible, the base should be lifted up with poles or broom handles (not a fork!) and a torch shone in to look for any wildlife or pets in need of rescue before lighting.
  • Hedgehogs are good swimmers but can become trapped in ponds or pools with
    sheer sides. Keep water levels topped up, provide a gently sloping edge if possible or place half submerged rocks in the water as an escape for them.
  • Finally, take care on the roads, hedgehogs are nocturnal so are often seen out at
    night. A hedgehog’s natural defence mechanism is to roll into a ball – this is no
    match for a motor vehicle.

British Hedgehog Preservation Society Chief Executive, Fay Vass, said 
“Our gardens take up such a lot of habitat, and by getting together with neighbours to ensure hedgehogs have access points and hedgehog friendly features in the garden, we can open up a really useful amount of habitat for them.  You could become a Hedgehog Champion for your area at Hedgehog Street – a project run by BHPS and our partners People’s Trust for Endangered Species.  Join 70,000 Champions by signing up at www.hedgehogstreet.org – there’s even a Hedgehog Street app you can download from The App Store or Google Play!”

 

Winter Bird Survey Highlights

The results of the winter bird survey carried out by an independent consultant on our campuses have been received and we wanted to share the highlights:

Streatham Campus recorded its highest number of birds on campus since 2013/14 with 1,392 birds.

This represented 36 different bird species, 24% of which are listed on the the RSPB Red/Amber List; suggesting that the campus continues to be an important habitat for threatened species including the Grey Wagtail, Thrush, Sparrow and Redwing.

Grey Wagtail

Thrush

Sparrow

Redwing

St Luke’s Campus, although smaller than Streatham Campus, recorded 290 birds; up from the 2013/14 baseline of 236 birds and continuing an upward trent.

Out of the 19 species recorded, 6 species are listed on the RSPB Red/Amber List including the Starling which had not been recorded at Streatham Campus.

Starling

It’s great to see that the work of the Grounds Team, to manage the environment and use maintenance techniques that consider and promote biodiversity and habitat conservation, continues to deliver positive benefits for wildlife.