Monday, 15 October 2012

A Tale with a Sting

Wasp-killing traps on sale at The Eden Project
A visit to the Eden Project rounded off a superb two week family holiday in Cornwall recently. It was a wonderful day out,  and the organisation is clearly doing  a brilliant job in getting across its conservation and environmental messages.

Brilliant that is, except in one respect. . .

I was saddened to discover on my way out through their enormous shop area that The Eden Project finds it acceptable to generate income by promoting the elimination of wasps. Two separate displays of these pretty glass wasp-drowning traps were on sale to visitors.

Isn't it nice when killing insects can be done in such an attractive and delicate way? Maybe people find these little glass traps attractive; personally, I find it repugnant that such items were being sold there. It completely undermines the ecological message this organisation is promoting. Search their online shop for words like slug, insecticide, killer, pest, or trap and  you'll find nothing else being sold to destroy wildlife in your garden. So why these wasp traps? Is it because they're pretty, and they sell well? Or maybe they just didn't think it through.

An unconvincing justification for
you to buy one of The Eden Project's
pretty glass wasp-killing traps.
I don't worry that hardware stores and garden centres sell insect-killing products, but not an organisation that promotes the ethics and importance of conservation. So come on, Eden Project - follow the example of The National Trust and take these horrid things off your shelves for good, and do it as quickly as you can.

When large organisation with conservation ethics at their  heart get something wrong, it’s heartening to know that just the tiniest of nudges can sometimes get them to rectify their mistakes.
Let's hope The Eden Project will do this.

Twitter saves wasps from death by drowning
In 2011 a single tweet of mine set in motion a change of heart at The National Trust. I had become frustrated with seeing these same colourful wasp traps being sold in every National Trust property I visited. It seemed wrong, and something had to be done.

So I tweeted my concerns to @NationalTrust and received a helpful, but understandably naive reply from their Social Media Team. My response back then elicited an email address for the twitter team. So I set out my arguments to them as to why I felt an organisation like the NT, so closely allied to conservation of the environment, should not be seen to be promoting Victorian-style wasp traps as an acceptable means of pest control in its shops. I pointed out that everything else they sell, say, and do promotes garden wildlife and conservation, so why were these pretty glass ornamental killers being sold? As any social media team should do, they forwarded my concerns upwards for consideration within the organisation, and to their specialist on nature and wildlife, Matthew Oates.

Meanwhile I tweeted to @Buzz_dont_tweet  (aka the charity 'Buglife') which  soon got their CEO,  Matt Shardlow, writing to Helen Meech, the Assistant Director of External Affairs at The National Trust.

Pretty soon the National Trust contacted us to say they'd reviewed their position and had agreed not to order these horrid traps in future. They didn't remove their existing stock, but I'm pleased to say that during the 2012 season I visited a number of National Trust outlets and looked carefully for wasp traps on sale. Not one could be found, though sometimes the shop staff apologised and expressed a hope they'd be back in stock soon.   They won't!

Will the managers at The Eden Project follow the lead of The National Trust and remove wasp traps from sale?  Here's the tweet I sent them this morning

@edenproject As an environmental organisation, how do you justify the sale of wasp-killing traps? Whose decision is it?

I hope to report back on their response soon.

Native wasps are integral parts of our fauna. They play a valuable role in pest control in our gardens, and it’s only for a few short weeks in autumn that they can come into conflict with humans. If they come close to you, don't flap, don't panic, and simply move a hand slowly near them to get them to move. If they come to a picnic, just leave a little bit of meat or sugary food on one side and enjoy watching them go about their business. Call a qualified pest control officer if you have a large wasp nest near your property causing you genuine problems. Remember, the colonies all die off in winter - only the queen survives through to the next year.
If you really want a trap from The Eden Project, my kids were delighted when we came away with this instead.

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