Friends of Deal Island

by Jo Widdowson – President

Friends of Deal Island have been working away quietly and have a new strategy in dealing with the invasive weed ragwort.

The November working bee was a great success – please take the time to have a look at the working bee report here, its a great read.

Thanks to Stuart for leading, to all our participants and to the many who applied and were unsuccessful on this occasion.

This was my (Jo’s) first trip to Deal Island as a FODI member since I joined the branch in 2018.

It was fabulous as always to spend time there but also rewarding to see the impact our efforts make on the island.

We had a good look around whilst there, searched for sea spurge and yes we found a few plants but not in great numbers, – definitely winning there! The museum and outbuildings were looking great after painting in last few working bees and we explored other opportunities to contribute. So thanks to those who have participated in working bees or helped off island! I’d also like to acknowledge the Wettenhall Trust grant that enabled this working bee to happen.

Info on how to express interest in our next working bee can be found at the end of this article.

Ragwort – for anyone who has been to Deal over the last decade you will know this is a weed that poses a significant threat to the biodiversity of the island. Ragwort is beyond the control of human intervention .. we have tried! We reviewed our strategy a few years ago and determined the most likelihood of success was another attempt at biological control.

Over the last few years we have:

  • Contacted experts & engaged John Ireson (Ragwort Guru)
  • Surveyed populations in the wild (Bruny Island last Jan)
  • Applied for Grants – we were successful with Wettenhall Environment Trust and Wildcare

On Monday of last week four FODI members (Stuart, Mike, Jane & Cassie) and our Ragwort expert John Ireson and his wife Angela travelled to Bruny island in search of ragwort beetles. Five sites were sampled, collecting around 50 beetles only.

This was an interesting process involving;

  • checking for shot holes as evidence of beetles in the area,
  • vacuuming over multiple plants,
  • emptying the collection into a sorting tray,
  • extracting individual beetles from debris and,
  • repeat.

Luckily two days prior to that John and Angela had gone to Franklin and collected 200 beetles in the space of an hour before the 2 stroke vacuum he uses stopped functioning. So with our newly purchased Stihl mulcher vac (don’t panic.. a stocking is used to collect material before it reaches the mulcher), 250 beetles in total and 5 hrs later we left Bruny and returned to the Franklin site to try for more….after another 2 hours we had added to the total and reached our target of 400 + beetles ready for transport to Deal Island!

Stuart & beetles had an early road trip to meet Jo at Bridport/Lost Farm in time for a flight at 9am to Deal.

By 12.30 on the Tuesday – with the assistance of the fabulous caretakers, we had released the 400 plus live beetles onto a lush patch of rosettes in the middle of the previously surveyed release site .. around 24 hours after collecting of at least half of them. All beetles appeared to have travelled well with some jumping for joy at their new home 😉

Where to from here?

John is happy to help us try and get some stem and crown boring moth larvae over there in November so we will aim for that in our November working bee.

Utilsing the grants obtained from Wildcare’s TNCF, we will continue to tackle outlying areas of ragwort to minimise further spreading in both our March & November working bees.

Subject to branch funds or grants next March, we will examine the release site for signs of the beetle being present.

FODI now has a sufficient level of knowledge and expertise to carry out future releases should this one fail for any reason. A great first step!

March 2024 Working bee – Expressions of Interest

We are now ready to call for expressions of interest in our March working bee which will be for approximately 10 days around the 12-22 March. Should you wish to apply, please read this information sheet and complete the expression of interest form found here by 2 Feb.

We will have an AGM some time this year and we will be asking for your help ongoing. The Wooden Boat Festival is early next year and there are several roles on our committee that are up for grabs.

FODI’s strength is reliant on people caring about this fabulous island and being willing to give some of their time to help keep our branch alive and active so keep an eye out for an email mid year.