Busy hunting for Hymenoptera
I've just come back from the most fantastic week's break in the West Indies. We went to this lovely hotel
in Nevis for our honeymoon in a universe far, far away. Courtesy of Great Uncle Geoffrey (recently decd.) we managed to get over there again to belatedly celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary. Nevis is a truly lovely place, full of lovely people. Heaven. Anyway, enough of the backstory.
Two visits don't exactly make me an expert, but Nevis seems to be wrestling with some familiar issues. These were striking as we'd only seen the island in snapshots 25 years apart, and because the island is so small.
New flora and fauna have been arriving in Nevis from time immemorial, either naturally or by human agency. Plants flourish there if they can cope with the dry summers - the place is like a giant greenhouse. At this time of year it's 30 degrees during the day falling to 25 at night, when it rains.
The flora and fauna are amazing, but constantly threatened by imported unpleasantnesses. Lethal Yellowing Disease recently turned up on Nevis, for example, and is busy taking out palm trees all over the island.
What am I doing here?
Imported animals are more obvious. There are Green Vervet monkeys who make a nuisance of themselves, supposedly brought onto Nevis by French sailors in the 18th century. There are donkeys wandering about, whose great great great grandparents worked on the plantations. The whole island used to be covered in sugar cane, ergo rats. The plantation owners brought in Mongooses (Mongeese?) to deal with them, and so far as I can make out the Mongoose is now the apex predator on the island.
Other introductions are accidental but have no less far reaching consequences. In the eighties, rain brought with it a cheerful chorus of local tree frogs. These have been wiped out by the significantly less cheerful Cuban tree frog, which apparently arrived with the palm trees for the new Four Seasons. Grrr...
Most famous bee in Nevis
And that's another familiar thing - people don't seem to notice or know what's going on. It's one thing not to know the names of the plants around you, but it is odd that no-one seems curious let alone cross about something like all their frogs disappearing.
Who am I?
The good news is that the Nevisians do seem to care about their environment generally, and appreciate the value of what they have. They're reconnecting to the natural world from economic necessity. The beauty of the island is a much bigger draw for visitors than any number of hot tubs or the golf course, which is wiped out by the occasional hurricane. Discerning tourists and the cost of importing food mean a new understanding of the value of sustainable agriculture and local fishing too. I hope these are realizations that help drive policy for the next 25 years.
*That's sawflies, wasps, bees and ants