By Ian Bradford
When I first entered Nelson Lakes National Park in 1969, the dawn chorus was deafening. It was clear there was an abundance of birdlife. The creatures in the forest were in equilibrium. There was a balance between all species. Since then that equilibrium has been eroded. The large scale dropping of 1080 has killed birds either directly or indirectly.
Readers should look at the article in the Otago Daily Times online news of Thursday 17th March 2017. Two separate groups of people found dead birds among other dead animals after an intensive 1080 drop in 2014. There are many such accounts but DoC seems to ignore them.
Wasps — a major threat to bird life
The huge expansion of the wasp population in our beech forests means the insect population there has been decimated. The use of insecticides in the farming industry has further severely reduced the available insects. Wasps have reduced the honeydew available to the extent it is almost non-existent in some areas. The varroa mite also consumes insects. These important food supplies for our native birds have been very severely reduced. The birds are starving.
There is no doubt that wasps invade nests and devour hatchlings. Wasps have an amazing sense of smell. The smell of new hatchlings would undoubtedly attract wasps. The number of hatchlings devoured by wasps should not be underestimated. It is probably hugely significant.
Birds have to contend with avian malaria. This can be fatal for many birds.
Rats and stoats undoubtedly kill some birds, but when the bird population is high, the impression made by rats and stoats is not significant.
Stop 1080 drops and preserve our insects
The swamping of the country with 1080 has to stop immediately. The millions of dollars of taxpayer money spent on 1080 has to be channelled into diminishing the wasp population to the lowest possible level.
New methods of controlling insects pests in agriculture have to be instituted as soon as possible.
Two possible solutions are biological control where natural enemies are used to reduce the damage caused by pests and biopesticides. Biopesticides contain pathogens which cause a disease in the pest insect. The worldwide serious decline in insect numbers has to be addressed urgently.
Without insects, the human population would not survive. Bees provide honey and along with butterflies and other insects pollinate plants. Bees pollinate about one third of the things we eat. Insects are responsible for the decomposition of human and plant waste. Think what would happen if this accumulated? They provide valuable food for other species, and that includes some humans.
Spiders alone, control some of our worst insect pests. So the list goes on. New Zealand needs to take the lead and act urgently to restore our insect population. Not only for the sake of the birds but for our sakes as well.