Thursday 20 December 2012

Seasonal Greetings to all

This time of the year is one of heightened emotions and passions. The pleasurable, such as meeting friends and family, the sharing of gifts, of looking back on a year and getting ready for the the next one. The negative, such as the pressure to conform to consumption, the pressure to "enjoy yourself", the worries about the past year and what the future brings.

For me, the benefits of the good outweigh the burdens of the bleak. It is in this spirit that this years Christmas Card video was created. I hope that you can share in the fun that I had creating it, thinking of a positive message for all family, friends, colleagues and readers.

Whatever your circumstances, I bid you cheer for this season and happiness and prosperity in the coming year!

Chris. December 2012

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Why Your DNA is like a shiny film DVD – but cheaper to fund

A layperson's guide to your DNA and why  mapping it is important for future cancer and other treatments and prevention.

The sun rose today and the government announced that it was going to fund something big. £100 million will be spent  mapping the  DNA sequences of 100,000 sufferers of cancers and other rare diseases in the UK. This will be the start of a genetic revolution in medicine! How?

After your parents had enjoyed that creative night of passion, a solitary sperm and a giant egg (relative to the sperm) fused together. Now they shared the 3 billion plus bits of information. That information is encoded in your DNA.

Three billion bits of information fits comfortably onto a shiny film DVD. And as the digital information on the DVD recreates a wonderful film, the information in the DNA provides the instructions to create the incredible unique individual that is you.

We know, (OK, engineers and scientists know), how to make the film DVD with its microscopic digital instructions and read these on a DVD player.  We are only beginning to understand the very basics of small parts of the DNA that makes up our human genome. We can recognise bits of DNA as genes with particular functions like making haemoglobin or digesting your food. But, to be honest, we are still a very long way off understanding how all the instructions are transformed into the miraculous you and me.

So, the strategy behind mapping the DNAs of 100,000 sufferers of cancer and other diseases is: To see if there are any differences or common features in the information encoded in the 100,000 DNAs by comparing them. Comparing 3 billion bits of information from each individual within even a select group is going to be an enormous task. After all, three billion letters is about 1500 volumes of the fat Harry Pottter book (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix).

Fortunately, mapping your DNA has become a lot cheaper. Let's  ignore the  billions of years of natural  evolution leading to humanity. Perhaps we should also draw a discrete veil over the financial investment in romance leading to the nights of passion that created you and me. Mapping your  DNA sequence currently costs between £5,000 and £10,000. This is about 1% of the cost of mapping the first human genome in 2011, estimated at £500m!

£100m is therefore quite reasonable for the 100, 000 shiny DVDs worth of DNA information. After all, a good studio production to create an equivalent film costs tens of millions of pounds, so the investment sum is equivalent financing this year's blockbusters. And if you use double sided BlueRay discs, you can store the information more conveniently on only 7500 disks!

It is going to take years just to do the mapping of the 100,000 human DNA sequences. It will take even longer for all the discoveries and research to lead to successful treatments. So this is for the long term.

However, there will a point in the future where an older you or our children can go to the doctor, have our DNA sequences mapped at relatively low cost - and receive preventative treatment tailored to our unique individual genetic heritage.

Friday 7 December 2012

Making a candle from a small orange

Small orange or citrus fruit, particularly the easy peel varieties, can be used to make a simple candle.
If you cannot see the flash slideshow, the images can be viewed here:

  • Take the fruit and cut the peel carefully around the equator, without damaging the flesh underneath.
  • With the handle of a teaspoon or a blunt table knife, carefully loosen the peel from the fruit flesh, so that each peel hemisphere is only attached at the centre.
  • Loosen the orange segments and then carefully remove the peel hemispheres.
  • In most cases, one hemisphere has a pith wick, this forms the candle base. Cut a circle or star out of the other hemisphere.
  • Cut the pith wick to just a centimetre length. Then pour some sunflower or other vegetable oil into the hemisphere with the pith wick and allow to soak for a minute or two.
  • Light the pith wick carefully, this may take several attempts as the pith carbonises and soaks up the oil.
  • Place the other peel hemisphere on top, Voila!

Jane's Cheesy Fish Pie

Jane Thomas introduced me to Fish Pie and this is her recipe:

Jane’s Cheesy Fish Pie

(Serves 4)


300ml milk
1 heaped tbs cornflour
75-100g grated cheese (mature)
Salt & pepper
200g White fish
3 or 4 mashing Potatoes
Knob margarine or butter

  • Make a basic, but slightly thick white sauce. Stir in grated cheese.
  • Add fish to sauce and stir well. Chris cooks the fish in the sauce instead of oven baking later.
  • Cook potatoes till soft and make a firm mash with a little margarine or butter
  • Pour fish and cheese sauce into an ovenproof dish.
  • Top with mashed potato, sealing edges.
  • Cook in oven 170 degrees C/Gas 5 for 35 – 40 minutes till beginning to brown on top. Chris just grates cheese on top and grills the pie for 5 mins to brown the mash.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

International Patchwork Pleasures

What do you do when you your passion is patchwork and you never have enough material on hand? Claudia Pfeil started her own shop, Quilt & Co (* and also in Krefeld, Germany's Ritterstrasse. An Aladdin's Cave of fabrics, yarns and threads, the greatest delight were the glorious quilts on display in her workshop, next to the long armed quilting machines.

Whilst some of the pieces followed the traditional geometric patterns, you could see from the exhibition pieces that Claudia's artistic flair is with freely conceived works. The calendar images in the link above merely give a hint of the rich silks and glittering threads. the attached image is of a prize winning piece - catch up with her enthusiasm in her own words here

A poster in the shop reminded us of Monday's visit to the German Textile Museum in Krefeld Linn ( The current exhibition is 'European Art Quilts VII'  (*). These were the winners of a competition by the European Art Quilt Foundation. Exhibitors came from 15 countries and presented 48 contemporary quilts. The exhibition runs till February 2013.

The pieces displayed a wide variety of styles and media that were incorporated into the quilts, from maps, text, to screen printing. Some of the examples can be seen here

Louise Thomas and I visited The Manor at Hemingford Grey (, the former home of children's author Lucy Boston. Here we were privileged to take part in a special tour, showing the hand sewn, minutely detailed and precious quilts, sewn by Lucy Boston during the long winter nights. For those who cannot visit, they have been published in 'The Patchwork Quilts of Lucy Boston', by Diana Boston.

Louise Thomas is currently in Swansea and enthusiastically making patchwork cushions and other quilts as you can see from her blog

We left Claudia Pfeil's shop after an enjoyable long conversation, with some fabric for Louise's next project.

*these sites use Flash and may not display on more recent Android or HTML 5 compliant devices, like Google Nexus

The large Camera Obscura at Mülheim - visit with Ulrich Heker

Camera Obscura in Mülheim
Ulrich Heker of Teeth'R'US invited us to visit Mülheim last week. With a shared interest in photography in addition to our DE-GB collaborations and publications, the large camera obscura with its associated museum was an ideal place for an outing. for the full slide show, visit: text

Taking the lift to the dome of the large converted water tower, we entered the darkened viewing room of the camera obscura. When the aperture 10m above us was opened, light was reflected off a 300mm mirror that could be rotated at the top of the dome, through a set of lenses with an aperture of about 140mm and projected to give an incredibly realistic view of the surroundings on a wide table.

In the weak winter sun, the scene was not as bright as at noon on a full summer's day, but when the mirror was rotated to view the nearby roads, the cars and buses seemed to be toys within touching distance.

Fortunately, I was armed with camera and tripod and was able to take a series of images, not just of the projections, but also of the amazed and interested spectators. Their faces glowed in the reflected light.

The winter sun was setting and over a period of half an hour came into projected view. We first followed it with a small screen until it reached the main projection table. Here, glowing in it's full glory, the disc of around 8cm diameter clearly showed two sunspots. Shining through the lower bands of the atmosphere, the disc also rippled with slight atmospheric disturbances, as if it were alive.

The principle of the camera obscura was known to Aristotle. As children we came across the portable version, the pinhole camera. David Hockney recently gave an excellent TV series on how Renaissance artists probably used the method for their incredible perspective and realistic paintings. However, large scale projections still have their own magic when you encounter them.

Coming down through the museum, we found the photographer Michael Schaaf ( preparing for a workshop with an old plate camera,using the wet colloidon principle. I picked up a very useful tip here: Use long exposures to photograph a portrait and you avoid the bane of any photographer's life, people blinking just as you take the picture. With a longer exposure ( a couple of seconds) blinking does not register. But your subject has to remain very still!

Ulrich Heker is himself an accomplished photographer (and has done nearly all the photos for the articles I translated for various dental magazines). So we naturally had an extended conversation with Michael Schaaf, which tested the patience of our companions.

If you are ever near Mülheim in Germany, make a point of visiting the Camera Obscura there. Other exmples worldwide can be found by following the links here

Designing the book cover for Harriet's Holiday

The accompanying slideshow gives a visual timeline of how the book cover for Ruth Leffler's children's book 'Harriet's Holiday'  was created. The process is expanded below.

(if you cannot see it below, please visit

I was chatting with the author, Ruth Leffler, at a meeting of the Huntingdonshire Business Network about her completed manuscript of her children's book, Harriet's Holiday. The main stumbling block was the completion of a book cover.

Ruth Leffler's vision was an image relating to a particular part of the book where Harriet, on holiday, climbs the stairs of an old Scottish house. She finds an old arched door that is partly open, revealing a child's bedroom. A friendly teddy bear rests on the bed, there is a sheepskin rug on the floor and the windows looked out over the nearby loch.

The imagery immediately fired my imagination and I begged to be given first opportunity to design the cover.

Back home, I began with some quick sketches of how the room might be arranged and, more importantly, where the door would be in relation to the room and the rest of the house. This was followed by where to place Harriet. The decision was to have her at the threshold, just about to enter and pushing open the door.

The book is itself magical, with Harriet entering pictures for adventures. Therefore, rather than having a normal perspective, I placed the reader higher up, looking down on Harriet and over her shoulder into the room.

This being a book cover, the image also needed relatively uncluttered areas for the title 'Harriet's Holiday' in large lettering at the top and 'Ruth Leffler' as the author's name at the bottom.

As the medium, I decided to use soft pastels. In the latter part of the slideshow
(if you cannot see it above, please visit
 you can see how the paper was planned out, the general outlines pencilled in and then completed in stages.

Ruth liked the final draft but found the halo around Harriet too distracting. This was therefore toned down usig photoediting as pastels themselved gave too wide a golden edge. It only remained to add the title 'Harriet's Holiday' and 'Ruth Leffler' in a suitable font and the cover was complete.

I'm pleased that Ruth liked the cover for Harriet's Holiday.

If you would like a gentle magical tale to read to your children, or a tale which your own inner child might delight in, Harriet's Holiday by Ruth Leffler is available for Kindle readers on Amazon at Enjoy!

Thursday 15 November 2012

The future is closer than you think - Climate Change Adaptation

Guest blog by Jane Thomas

We don’t need to look far to see the health impacts the weather can have and how important it is to build in climate change resilience:

  • Hurricane Sandy claimed 121 lives, cut power to over 8 million homes and rendered the water supply for many unsafe to drink
  • The 2003 heat wave on the continent caused 35,000 extra deaths
  • The flooding in Gloucestershire in 2007 caught us out, when all four access roads to the town became impassable and, for the first time in its 100-year history, the Mythe Water Treatment Works flooded, resulting in the loss of tap water for 140,000 homes over a period of two weeks. 

I have always had an interest in climate change and sustainability, so on Wednesday I went along to a very well attended meeting of the East of England Climate Change Adaptation Network, representing Milton Contact Ltd.

The focus of the meeting was health and well-being, with contributions from the NHS sustainability team, NHS Bedfordshire, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, Essex County Council, The Environment Agency and Defra.

These organisations have a responsibility to reduce their own impact on the climate in terms of carbon and energy use and to make plans to help keep us safe in extreme weather conditions.

They are also keen to encourage us all to share that responsibility: We can make changes to the way we go about our daily lives; we can make changes at work which not only save money, but can improve the health and perhaps the safety of the staff; or we can make plans to help us get through severe weather events unharmed and with minimal disruption to business continuity.

When we buy a house or set up a business here in the UK, we generally ensure that the roof is watertight and the windows exclude drafts when it’s cold, but open to allow the house to cool off when it’s hot. We fit heating to keep us warm and a clean, safe supply of drinking water is taken as given. We even take out a variety of insurance policies to help us out financially when things go wrong.

But are we ready for the changes that our weather may throw at us?

Some may think this is for future generations to worry about, but recent events indicate that we should be prepared.

We can all take steps now to be prepared and help protect ourselves, our homes and our businesses. It needn’t cost the earth and might even save us money.

We should not be complacent and believe this is for others to worry about. We can save energy – we can take the bus, walk or cycle occasionally – we can buy locally produced foods – and we can adapt to reduce the impact of extreme weather.

What will you do today to reduce the impacts on you and yours?

As a first step, I would encourage you to check the Environment Agency’s flood risk map to find out whether your home or business are at risk of flooding. 

Go to and click on Flood Map.

A review paper in Nature estimated that in 2000 a global death toll of 150,000 was attributable to global warming. Jonathan A. Patz, D. Campbell-Lendrum, T. Holloway, et al., “Impact of regional climate change on human health,” Nature, 2005, vol. 438, pp. 310-317.

Follow Jane on Twitter @sustainmi

Investing time and money in a sustainable future

I had a meeting with the TSB in London, about the future for business in sustainable construction. What's more, they not only wanted to hear my opinions on problems to be tackled, they even offered a pot of 50m GBP I could tap into!

By now it should be apparent that I was not talking to a bank. My partner was the Technology Strategy Board, and I was not alone. Experts from a slew of construction interests, from business to research had come.

This was just one of a series of meetings, ably organised on behalf of the TSB throughout the UK by WECREATE.

The objective was to identify those stumbling blocks for businesses over the next five years active in the area of low impact buildings. My personal interest in participation came from work with architects active and expert in sustainable construction e.g. Tollé Green Architecture.

We were split into groups of three or four first, to brainstorm the key issues. This was followed by listing the top five barriers that prevented commercial progress in low impact construction. From these, TAB would identify where to provide support to overcome these barriers.

There were three problem areas and each group was given one to concentrate on:

1. Maximising existing stock
2. Zero carbon new build
3. Resilience to future climate

I found myself in a group tackling future climate (we had no choice).

A consistent theme, when chatting to other participants afterwards, was the need for clear communication and incentives. This should be working from the ground up.

In contrast to some of the northern European countries, sustainability issues are lower on the priority list of the UK population. Construction complies to the letter of regulations against the backdrop of a competitive market and striving to keep costs down, in a recession.

Changing attitudes with the public and in construction will ultimately provide the self motivated shift required for reasonable progress.

We were encouraged to tweet our identified issues and solutions under #lib201318. For the non-twitterati, four of our suggestions are repeated below:

1. App for people to easily calculate benefits of changes to their behaviour or buildings.

2. The need for an industry recognised prestigious prize to promote adoption of climate resilience.

3. Collection of real-time data from existing occupied buildings on performance.

4. Recognised standards for meeting resilience to future climate change.

In addition to having made some interesting new contacts, we left with the anticipation of the Technology Strategies Board future project-funding proposals.

What will the next 50m GBP go towards?

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Ash dieback, back to the future

Whilst we are reeling from the shock of finding ash dieback in the UK, European foresters have been fighting an ongoing battle to find practical solutions to this relatively new ash tree killer.

With new cases of ash dieback disease detected  on a daily basis in the UK, the more likely scenario is that the disease has been bubbling away for a couple of seasons – unnoticed until you deliberately look for symptoms.

Judging by the progress of the ash dieback in Europe, where it was first identified in the early nineties, the next three years will see a dramatic decline in our ash population. Whether this is by the disease itself or a frenzy of pre-emptive logging is another question.

How does it all start?

A microscopic fungal spore lands on an ash leaf and infects it. Fine fungal threads, called hyphae, grow through the leaf and into the stem. Blocking the plant vessels carrying water in the plant, they kill off the leaves, petioles and wood. They create the symptoms so aptly described in the ashtag app you can download here. This is the fungal disease known as Chalara fraxinea or ash dieback!

The infected dead leaves fall to the ground. Here, small white cup shaped fungal fruiting bodies appear on the leaf stems (petioles) - known as the fungus Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus. These produce the spores that infect the leaves of both diseased and still healthy ash trees nearby.

Octobertest in Bavaria

Can we save our ash trees? I found an interesting 2012 paper by a Bavarian group of forestry researchers who have been battling with this questions for the past four years. They looked at over 1000 ash trees in a spread of experimental plots throughout Bavaria. Read the paper by Heike Lenz and colleagues, here. (For those unfamiliar with German, here's my quick translation). Some key points below.

Finding supertrees?

Even after three years, exposed to heavily infected neighbours, about 6% of the Bavarian ash trees were healthy or only lightly infected. This phenomenon has been observed elsewhere too. Are the healthy trees just lucky or are they partially or even fully resistant? Unfortunately, we will be experiencing natural selection in ash in real time, in the woods of Bavaria and Britain.

Far above the fungal cloud

However, the level of healthy trees was lower by half in young stands. Could this be because the leaves on the older trees were higher above the ground, away from where the spores were being produced. Tantalisingly, the data for the effect of altitude was still unavailable, presumably in progress. Measurements did show that rain spread more spores in the air.

Stressed out or seeing the light

Early results from ground shading experiments in the field mirrored those in the lab. Spore formation appears to be promoted by light. So could we reduce the infection pressure due to spore formation by other factors too? Faster leaf decomposition, liming the soil, changes in nutrients and other stresses all need to be tested for their effects on spore formation and germination.


We can use existing research from EU foresters who are ahead of us in the disease curve. We are still going to see a dramatic population crash in the number of healthy ash trees over the next few years. However, unlike the Elms, which were all genetic clones of a Roman import, ash trees have a natural diversity. It looks as if tolerant or even resistant individuals will survive and, in the long run, we may get our ash stands back.

Monday 22 October 2012

The BDTA Dental Showcase 2012 experience

The Dental Showcase was in London this year, so Thursday morning found me arriving at Waterbeach station at the start of a chill Autumnal day, catching the train to London.

The slideshow captures some of the more esoteric scenes captured in a walkabout at Excel.

In contrast to February’s EcoBuild exhibition, which took up the whole of the Excel centre, the Dental Showcase had garnered the riverbank side. Entering ahead of the masses before the show opened with my exhibition pass, I finally found a warm welcome at Stand T07. Ulrich Heker of Teeth’R’Us, longstanding friend and user of my services had booked this years stand to share with Felix Boelle of Hema.

This meant that our stand offered interest both to dentists and dental technicians. Ulrich’s half demonstrated the invisible attachments and telescopic crowns, for which he is now recognised as an author and expert by UK dentists. Felix was demonstrating a new bioceramic tooth replacement system and kits, by ceramindent, of interest to dental technicians. Felix’s team included Orla and Markus from ceramident, once they had battled through the vagaries of hotel booking and chasing up last minute deliveries of materials.

About accommodation in an expensive city. Ulrich is an old hand at exhibitions in London and Birmingham. Forgoing the more expensive hotels, he'd used B&Bs and other small hotels in the past. This time he had found a novel solution and asked me to check it out, Here people  rent out rooms within their houses at a reasonable fee to visitors. Properties are available all over the world including, most importantly, London. Ulrich, his partner Andrea and I were able to stay in a property with six bedrooms, all used by visiting guests, for a mere £20 per person per night. Absolutely amazing in the middle of London.

The rooms were clean, if a trifle bare. We had to use shared bathrooms and showers and some of the fittings were a bit ramshackle. However compared to a hotel that I remember in Paddington, at three times the cost, it was a vast improvement. And all this just 10 min away from Excel. If you are willing to forego luxury for cheap overnight accommodation in one of the most expensive cities in Europe, consider!

Ulrich, his partner Andrea and I had past experience at Dental Showcases and soon the newcomers also slotted into our well established routine to maximise everyone’s skills.

My main role was in front of the stand. I'd talk to passers-by . If they were dentists, interested the telescopic dentures,  I'd pass them on to Ulrich. Dental technicians on the other hand, were introduced to ceramident and then passed on to Orla.

We also had copies of the current issue of The Technologist with an article by Ulrich on colour correction during photography of teeth - for dentists who want a good colour reproduction when trying to match existing and new teeth.

Thursday was the quietest day.  Friday at the dental Showcase was busier, again mainly in the morning. Saturday was full house! We were kept on our toes until about half an hour before closing time.

Judging by the crowds gathering around the stand, the existing friends who brought along queries about past & new projects and new contacts for both sides of our stand, this was a good exhibition year.

But the more immediate message, on the train, homeward bound? A thank you from my aching feet – at last a break after three busy days!

Monday 8 October 2012

Fuel poverty-identifying solutions in the UK

The SHIFT conference on Fuel Poverty-Identifying Solutions took place on 28th September 2012, in the Church House Conference Centre, just a stone’s throw away from Westminster Abbey. Energy Experts, government departments and representatives from a variety of housing associations provided a wide breadth of speakers on the importance of fuel poverty as an important factor in social housing and tackling our future energy savings plans in the light of the Green Deal.

From Wordle-images

The green deal, and with it the energy company obligation (ECO), is a new initiative that has come live this October with the aim of pushing Britain towards higher energy efficiency. The principle appears simple. Energy companies are obliged to offer householders, i.e. the bill payers for energy, a solution whereby their properties are improved at no upfront cost to them. Instead an agreement is reached where the energy bill repayments will be less over the lifetime of the property than they would have been without the improvements, but with some repayment towards the energy companies. It appears to be a win-win situation as described by the DECC in their presentation. The householder saves on their bills, the country as a whole becomes more energy-efficient, and the energy providers recoup their initial investment in the improvements.

However Prof Brenda Boardman saw the green deal in a slightly different light. She is author of a study "Achieving zero: delivering future friendly buildings" and also of the book "Fixing fuel poverty: challenges and solutions". In her eyes the following would not benefit from the Green Deal:
the fuel poor
small households
tenants in F or G rated properties
anyone with a mortgage
In fact, in her opinion, the only ones who would benefit would be the elderly and those who wholly owned their properties.

Furthermore the fanfare of the Green Deal hides cuts in government investment for the Warm Front from £350 million to 0 at the end of this year. And the government has given up its objective of eradicating fuel poverty by 2016 and now only stated commitment to tackling it.

The situation is exacerbated, as noted by the speaker from the National Energy Action, by the fact that England is largely lagging behind the other states within the United Kingdom, in terms of its energy policy.

It is therefore all the more laudable that different housing associations have been looking at innovative solutions that would allow their landlords to understand and protect tenants from fuel poverty.

The running thread throughout these latter presentations was the benefit of educating the householders within the housing associations. This could range from having a "Green doctor" who could give advice on energy-efficient behaviour, to targeting improvements to the worst properties and bringing them up to at least the minimum SAP rating of around 80.

Gentoo, which manages about 30,000 properties, has "improving the art of living" as its objective. They asked staff and customers how much they would be willing to pay for energy efficiency improvements. Many were willing to pay an extra five pounds a week. Of the 12,000 properties retrofitted by Gentoo to date, 88% took on solar panels at an extra £1 a week and double glazing at an extra couple of pence per week. Only a few properties were not really interested in having improvements. The novel element was to collect the money for these improvements as part of the rent. The payment collection system was familiar to the householders and news soon spread around the community, creating a positive feedback to implement the changes. Note that this is an alternative system, independent of the Green Deal.

We also heard about the RELISH program from Worthing Homes. This looked at the impact of householder education with and without energy efficiency measures. The most amazing observation was, that householder education achieved the highest impact in terms of energy efficiency. Education alone resulted in an 18% drop in energy usage, amounting to approximately £220 per year savings. Low-cost improvements plus education reduced bills by £368. Low-cost improvements alone (without education) only achieved a £38 saving over the year. The key message was that householders could be removed from fuel poverty by education alone.

Fuel poverty is defined as when the expenditure on energy exceeds 10% of the household budget. With ever increasing fuel costs evermore people (and not just those on the lowest incomes) are falling within this margin.

Therefore, the message that education alone can reduce household energy bills by up to 20% is a significant insight that should be made more widely known.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Does Sex have a Role in Success

With a title like "The role of sex in success", my biological curiosity and and intellect battled it out about whether to attend this event, part of Ann Hawkins' series of events by The Inspired Group. Naturally, my intellect won by rationalising that it would be beneficial to learn more about the subject.

The talk was presented by Susan Quilliam, Relationship Psychologist, who recently updated the iconic "The Joy of Sex" for the 21st Millenium. As Susan said, her aim was to bring a 70's book written by a man mostly for men to an era where it could be about a subject equally for men and women.

For those of you hoping for a more salacious article, I do have to disappoint you in advance, though  you may find the section on the calorific value of ejaculate interesting at the end. For Susan was looking at three elements relating to sex, rather than the acts themselves, namely:
  1. How sex can support success
  2. How sex can sabotage success
  3. And how the choice rests with us
Susan, a composed competent speaker with a twinkle of humour in her eye, took us through the points individually. She then gave us the opportunity to discuss and come up with insights. These were either our own experiences or the very public ones by the great and not so good ingrained into the consciousness of our society, or at least the red top papers.

Supporting Success

Apparently there are at least 237 reasons or benefits of sex with some of the key elements being improved health, a better emotional balance in life and, when redirected, additional drive and enthusiasm in achieving other tasks and objectives.

Sabotaging Success

However, sexual dynamics and relationships in the workplace can have a destructive effect. This is not just on the individuals involved, but due the disintegration or just lowered efficiency of the teams in which they take place.  Sexual desire can seriously affect decision making, resulting in business errors bitterly regretted later.

Making the right choices for us

So it came down to us to accept that sexual dynamics, tensions, attractions existed. There is a wide spectrum of cultural backgrounds and socially accepted behaviours, from dealing with strangers to the apple of one's eye. It is up to us to make a choice which ones will be positive and to know when we reach boundaries we should perhaps not cross over.

I must admit that in the open discussions, we were a very cerebral, rational and demure lot. The word that raised the most frisson, was the use of the word" frisson" in relation to a married relationship. However, with a drink and food at the table after the formal part of the talk, conversation became a lot more animated. Laughter, innuendo and some intriguing stories emerged.

One common theme at our table was the relationships we had with our children and the cross-generational inhibitions there seemed to be in accepting that either side could actually talk about and understand - sex.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was the gender/sexual inequality that was revealed when we took a closer look at the avowed fact that the sexual act used a full 85 calories. For it seems that one party in the final consummation dispenses a further 5 calories as ejaculate, therefore using 90 calories, whilst the recipient therefore could suffer a deficit by receiving those 5 calories and therefore only using 80 in total.

Humour aside, it was an informative and thought provoking evening which I was thoroughly justified in talking myself into attending. If you want to know more, contact Susan Quilliam or read her books, covering topics from body language, through relationship management and coping with crises.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Germany-EoE links via Tollé Green Architecture

A flat-lining EU economy, the construction industry in crisis. This is not a good time for an architect's visit to the UK, you might think. So why did Sandra & Leif Tollé come to Cambridge seeking meetings and with plans for a UK architectural practice (Tollé Green Architecture)? Add to this, their underlying ethos of social responsibility.  Surely this was a no-brainer in the free-market UK economy currently led by a right-leaning government!

The answer as to why the visit was successful has four parts:

1. German green retrofitting and new-build expertise

Britain has international obligations regarding global warming. Domestic fuel prices are increasing. And greener building regulations by the present and past governments have been implemented. These factors are slowly seeping into the consciousness of the UK construction sector. Our usual British reaction is to put off any changes until they are unavoidable. It is only in the past few years that green construction ideas and technologies have begun to be taken seriously.

This contrasts with a much stronger and longer green tradition in Germany and Scandinavia. Experts reckon that these countries have a lead in green construction of between 10 and 25 years.

The existing housing stock in the UK also provides significant challenges with regards to retrofitting. A previous article about Ecobuild 2012 mentions hard to treat properties in the UK

The Green Deal is expected to accelerate green practices in the UK.

In all our appointments with UK partners, expertise was seen as the key advantage provided by Tollé Green Architecture. This comes from a German parent practice with decades of experience in dealing in major industrial construction. There is also considerable retrofitting expertise, not only in single houses but also in multiapartment blocks (see: Practical examples of retrofitting in Verden, Germany

2. Taking an international perspective

Leif & Sandra Tollé see Tollé Green Architecture not just as a local UK company. The intention is to establish practical regional links at several levels, e.g. between North-Rhine Westphalia and the East of England. One level includes the exchange of craftsmen and women, training or retraining in the skills of the green construction sector. Another looks at collaboration in research.

Tollé Green Architecture is looking for UK partners and locations to work with. They came with a clear proposal, including potential German institutions as partners.  Preliminary contacts were made through Milton Contact Ltd, the British Consulate and UKTI.

The East of England is an ideal location for forging such links. This is due to the combination of universities (Cambridge, ARU, UEA) and  green networks (Cleantech, UKCEED, Enterprise Europe East). There is a training centre with existing European connections (Smartlife Low Carbon). Furthermore, in this region, companies like HSA Accountants have a familiarity and competence in assisting companies with EU connections.

3. Social perspectives

Sandra & Leif Tollé of Tollé Green Architecture take the role of the architect within society seriously.  They have made it a core part of their ethos. As Sandra reiterated at each meeting, the architect does not simply raise a building. They also create an environment which impacts on the people who work, rest and play within it for decades.

The social element of the company was the one that received a mixed response. It was irrelevant in some meetings and struck a strong chord in others. With Triodos Bank, it was essential, as they are an ethical and social bank.

A social philosophy is not incompatible with good business in construction, as shown by Scansca's successful Seven Acres development in South Cambridge (Trumpington

The current economic climate is also changing the social fabric within the UK. The private housing market has seen a shift towards staying put and improving existing properties. Prices and circumstances are pushing more people to rent rather than house buying. The rise in fuel prices has exacerbated fuel poverty. The National Housing Federation quotes 4.5 million people in housing need in the UK with 1 million children in overcrowded accommodation. Many housing associations are experiencing increasing financial pressures.
Conversations with Peterborough based UKCEED and Cambridge's Eclipse Research revealed that UK policy makers and cities are therefore looking for solutions. They wish to achieve improvements in the environmental-, social- and economic aspects of an area.

4. Constructive partners 

Above all, the UK visit by Sandra & Leif Tollé of Tollé Green Architecture was successful because of the individuals and organisations we met. They were willing to listen, to provide constructive feedback and to give us insights into their respective areas of expertise. We were also directed to useful future contacts and events.

The world and its economies may seem to be globalised. However each country and region has its cultural, social, economic and construction related customs and regulations. Armed with their expanded knowledge, Sandra & Leif Tollé will find UK partners for their European collaboration in the short term. In the longer term they will establish Tollé Green Architecture as part of the UK's green construction expertise.

Monday 27 August 2012

2012 Paralympics - Enabling times?

Talking with Pamela Mungroo (Freelance producer, presenter, podcaster) earlier this week, our conversation turned to the Paralympics. Not only were we both looking forward to the events, we thought these games would be a major turning point in public perception and attitudes to …

And there we already hit a problem. Our very use of language reflects the centuries of prevalent attitudes towards “the disabled”. Most of the descriptive terms have a negative, diminishing or even derogatory connotation.

Pamela had in fact written an interesting Master's thesis (“How the historical attitudes, both artistic and cultural, continue to influence today’s visual imagery of the deformed body” )  which I read later that evening. It illustrated how a separation into “them” and “us” had existed through the ages and been reflected and reinterpreted in the current philosophies of the day, using the visual media as an example. It was quite an eye opener to see how imagery was used to portray a certain message, even by organisations looking for funding to improve or prevent the plight of “the disabled”.

It prompted me to see if there was an underlying biological basis to the creation of these attitudes in scientific publications – perhaps in terms of visual appearance and even mate selection. Yes, there seemed to be a trend for the preference for facial symmetry, for example (Rhodes et al 1998, “Facial symmetry and the perception of beauty”

However, when you looked at body perception, there was a clear cultural bias, with people's attitudes shifting to those of the culture they were moving into. More telling was the prevalence of research into perceptions of female beauty in results of searches – cultural bias was even affecting the nature of certain types of research and answers sought.

In Britain, attitudes towards women, race and sexuality have gradually shifted over the past century alone. These elements of our society have been absorbed within the current accepted norm. Pamela and I thought that with the Paralympics in London, we were seeing a broadening of the perception of what the norm of our population actually was – to include “the disabled”, rather than see them as “other”.

You can already see the shift in attitude by the way the media are portraying paralympians and the upcoming Paralympics. Photography and filming alone are done in a much more sympathetic way, looking to convey more about the person themselves or the ideals they stand for. Trawling through Channel 4's website, the official Paralympics TV channel, the articles were also remarkably free of phrases or terms with hidden negative connotations.

For me, the best article reflecting the change in attitudes was the tongue-in-cheek and racy blog “How many condoms will be used in the athlete's village at the Paralympics” Fun, controversial and talking about people with a unique set of opportunities and physical challenges in the Athletes Village.

But look at the photos of the Channel 4 presenters for the games and you see that the harsh competitive nature of advertising prevails; no obvious “disability” on view here. This will require more time.

I'm looking forward to a great series of sporting events. I am excited about going to see the athletics in the Olympic Stadium in person. Where Beijing had brought paralympics to the wider consciousness, I hope London will bring a lasting change towards inclusion and respect for a previously neglected part of our society.

Saturday 18 August 2012

3 Dimensions of success in the recession

It is possible to succeed and grow, even in the current harsh economic climate, as I discovered in conversation with Justin Burtenshaw, Director of 3 Dimensions Ltd, interior refurbishment specialists. His 3 Dimensions of success in the recession are Quality, Care and Cambridge.

Justin set up 3 Dimensions Ltd in 2002, specialising in interior refurbishment and initially most of his work was for other companies in the trade. Now 3 Dimensions Ltd also helps business clients directly. The work ranges from transforming tired old office spaces into modern, bright working environments to fitting out new space or business premises. It includes the effective use of glass, more efficient lighting and acoustic ceilings and walls. The 3 Dimensions of his company's success emerged as:


Right from the start, Justin preferred to implement quality in 3 Dimensions' work and the materials used. After all, the interiors that he produced were and still are living and working spaces for companies and staff that would last for a number of years. Quality and high standards in his work in turn reflects on his client's business presence and the pride of the people working there.


Care for the customer's needs when planning and then implementing a refurbishment is also something that is part of Justin's ethos. Customer care ensures that the final refurbished space is actually fit for the client's purpose.


The City of Cambridge has many faces. The tradition rich University is intertwined with the commercial part of the town centre. Surrounding the city, we have modern science and technology parks that cater for home grown Hi-Tech businesses right through to multinationals seeking a place at this prestigious location. 3 Dimensions is familiar with the peculiarities of the Town and Gown with its constrained spaces and often restricted access on the one hand and the needs of international corporations on the other.

Through the understanding to the 3 dimensions of Quality, Care and Cambridge, the company, 3 Dimensions Ltd, has grown. It is now recognised in its own right, both as a company that can provide good services to trade colleagues and also as an interior refurbishment specialist company in its own right for its business clients.

Find out more about 3 Dimensions Ltd here:

Want to communicate what your company does more effectively? Contact

Thursday 16 August 2012

Migraine and Headache trend differently on Twitter


Migraines and headaches show a different pattern of expression in Twitter trends both during the week and time of day.


As a migraineur, a sufferer of migraines, I was curious whether tweets on twitter would show any trends in migraine onset and whether these could be distinguished from headaches. This study uses an available searchable Twitter dataset generated by


The results were obtained using the data made available at the website of Scott Golder. This allows searches of over 500M tweets from 2.4M users, collected from public Twitter accounts using the Twitter API over the course of several weeks in early 2010.


Migraine tweets show a peak in the morning at around 07:00h plus or minus 3h (figure 1).

There were far more headache tweets than migraine tweets. Headache tweets show two peaks during the week. The morning peak mimicked that of the migraine peak in time (07:00h) whilst there was a broader peak at around 16:00h-17:00h (figure 2).

Figure 1: Plot of migraine tweets per hour for the days of the week

Figure 2: Plot of headache tweets per hour for the days of the week

Figure 3: Plot of tweets for headaches, hangovers and migraines averaged over the week

Figure 4: Plot of migraines and aggregated common painkiller tweets averaged over the week

On Saturdays and Sundays, headaches peaked strongly in the morning between 09:00h-10:00h and coincided with tweets for hangovers (Figure 3).

Note that the Monday afternoon headache peak was as large as the Sunday morning peak but did not coincide with hangovers.

Mention of the common painkillers, aspirin, paracetamol (Tylenol in the US) and ibuprofen appeared to peak either a couple of hours before or at the same time as mentions of migraines (figure 4). Unfortunately, the common triptans used for acute migraine treatment did not trend to a sufficient degree in the database and did not appear in searches.

Conclusions and Discussion

Tweets on Twitter were able to show distinct patterns relating to mention of migraine, headaches, hangovers and painkillers. Migraines are known to occur more frequently in the morning (e.g. Fox & Davis 2003, 'Migraine Chronobiology', DOI: 10.1046/j.1526-4610.1998.3806436.x). The results here show the same phenomenon. Furthermore, Twitter migraineurs appear to be able to distinguish between a migraine and a headache as there is only a single migraine peak during the day in the total averaged data.

Conversely, it appears that many headache sufferers may be unaware that their morning headache is possibly a migraine. From figure 3 it is apparent that about 5 times more headaches are mentioned than migraines. The morning minor headache peak coincides with the migraine peak. One possible conclusion is therefore that the occurrence of migraines is vastly under-reported.

This may also explain the apparent and unusual closer correlation between migraines and conventional painkiller-use peaks in the morning (figure 4). Migraineurs tend to know from bitter experience that conventional painkillers do not have a significant effect on their migraines, with triptans being the saving grace for many of us. Could it be that the higher mention of the use of painkillers in the mornings is related to the fact that they do not work in many instances where tweeters are suffering from a morning headache that is actually a migraine?

Figure 5. Back pain, arthritis, migraine and common painkiller use
An alternative explanation is perhaps the surprising coincidence of peaks in the most abundant pains suffered in the morning, namely migraine. back pain and arthritis with painkiller use as shown in figure 5.

Even the restricted dataset or 500M tweets provided by reveals interesting trends relating to the use of the term migraine in Tweets as demonstrated here. The available dataset should currently, in 2012, be significantly greater and open to further analysis by epidemiologists. The past 24h alone had 350 tweets relating to the #migraine.

Need help conducting research? Contact

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Alcohol leads to poor customer service in Dover

At 2:30pm, the anglophile Heker family from Germany was happily doing last minute shopping in the Morrisons, Bridge Street, Dover. A last minute stocking up on traditional British food and drink. By 2:46, Friday 10th August they were embroiled in a kafkaesque scene at the tills that lost their good will – and more importantly, their business to a neighbouring store.

Service at the till was going well till Mrs Heker made a crucial mistake, she deferred to her daughter to deal with the payment. The woman at the till queried the age of the daughter as the purchase included beers. As the daughter was under 18, the cashier had to refuse to accept payment for the alcoholic drinks.

Like all stores, Morrisons complies with the law to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors as signatories of the UK Public Health Responsibility deal (

Morrisons also has a record of refusing alcohol sales to adults where there is the faintest doubt that purchased alcohol may be given to people under 18.

Like many Britons, the Hekers could not understand why the parents could now not purchase the beers as part of their shop. The queue was building. Those in the queue were having similar difficulties in understanding.

Unable to deal with the situation, the cashier did the right thing – she called for her supervisor.

At this point we should note that this year Morrisons was the proud winner of “The Grocer Gold Award 2012 for Employer of the Year” and “The Grocer 2012 Grocer 33 Award” – for best customer service in mystery shop survey and for more times that any other supermarket over the last year.

Britain was also basking in a general atmosphere of good nature and will with the successful Olympics.

With such an excellent service record, one would have high hopes of a well trained Morrisons supervisor coming in to explain a policy; in a way that would calm the customer down, gain at least acceptance if not understanding, from the customer and permit a shop – without the alcoholic item. The customer would leave with the non-contentious goods, the company would be true to its policy with only a partial sacrifice.

Instead, Mr Heker described the arrival of (loosely paraphased in translation as) “A battleship under a full head of steam”.

The result was the total refusal of any purchase from the store, anger by the Heker's for a very public “show trial” at the till and a very sour taste at the end of their family holiday in Britain. What is more, they immediately went to a neighbouring store to conduct their purchases without difficulty or hostility.

This was a Pyrrhic victory for the Dover Morrisons store. It had made a point that will reverberate with other customers in the store at the time as well as future visitors to the UK who ask the Hekers about their experience of these isles. People could adjust their shopping habits accordingly. It has made me, a resident of the UK, think twice about my store choices.

The main other loser from this incident, the person also most likely to be equally bitter about having been placed in this situation and the poor outcome, is the supervisor.

From a business perspective, there is a lesson to be learnt. Stores need to support their staff more with comprehensive staff training in dealing with potential flare-ups. How to keep your head in a possible conflict,  cool down and defuse situations before they go critical, these are skills that can be taught.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Preparing for Spotted Wing Drosophila in the UK


This article provides accessible links and information on the fruit pest Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD, Drosophila suzukii) , brought together from a variety of sources. The information is current as of August 2012. This is still prior to the likely landfall of Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) in the UK. It includes Fera UK advice plus experiences of growers and researchers in the US and Europe where SWD is already present. This information should be of interest for professional fruit growers and for gardeners wanting to know more on how to detect the pest and manage it when it does arrive in the UK.

You can read and download the whole document as a PDF by clicking on the image below. Alternatively access the document for download from or continue reading this article below


I learnt of a crueller reality for fruit growers in the UK when the owner of one visited my Cambridge Open Studio photography exhibition in July 2012.  Fruit growers are looking out with dread for the first signs of the destructive fruit fly invader, Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), in the UK.

First recorded in Japan in the early 1910s, Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) was detected in the US and southern Europe by 2008. By November 2011 a specimen was found in Ostend, Belgium, just a Channel hop away (1).

It is only a matter of time before Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) invades the UK. Currently  Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) is on the list of Notifiable Pests and Diseases set by Defra/Fera (2).

The bad news is countered by the upsurge on recent experience and publications in Europe and the USA. We can benefit from the experience gained by growers and researches who are already battling with Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD, Drosophila suzukii).

Damage caused by the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD)

Within the first year of Spotted Wing Drosophila  reaching California, it caused $500 million actual loss due to pest damage. The effect was very variable, with some areas having little or no loss and others up to 80% crop loss (3). Details for individual crops over three US counties are given in (4).

Why Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) has such an impact

The reasons for the potentially severe effects and fast spread of Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) include

  1. Wide host range
  2. The ability to attack ripening fruit
  3. Exponential reproduction within a growing season
  4. Ability to reproduce at 10 deg C to 30 deg C
  5. Ability to spread in commercial fruit transport and by flight (5).

1. Wide host range

Reported hosts are Rosaceae - Fragaria ananassa (strawberry), Rubus idaeus (raspberry), Rubus fruticosus,  Rubus laciniatus,  Rubus armeniacus and other  Rubus species and hybrids of the blackberry group, Rubus ursinus (marionberry),  Prunus avium (sweet cherry),  Prunus armeniaca (apricot),  Prunus persica (peach),  Prunus domestica  (plum),  Eriobotrya japonica  (loquat); Ericaceae -  Vaccinium species and hybrids of the blueberry group; Grossulariaceae – Ribes species including the cultivated currants; Moraceae - Ficus carica (fig), Morus spp. (mulberry); Rhamnaceae - Rhamnus alpina ssp. fallax, Rhamnus frangula (buckthorn); Cornaceae -  Cornus spp. (dogwood); Actinidiaceae -  Actinidia arguta (hardy kiwi); Ebenaceae - Diospyros kaki (persimmon); Myrtaceae -  Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry); Rutaceae - Murraya paniculata (orange jasmine); Myricaceae - Myrica rubra (Chinese bayberry); Caprifoliaceae - Lonicera spp. (honeysuckle); Elaeagnaceae -  Elaeagnus spp.; Adoxaceae - Sambucus nigra (black elder). Also included are Vitis vinifera (table and wine grapes) and Malus domestica (apple)(5)(6).

2. Ability to attack ripening fruit

Female Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) target ripening fruit. They have a serrated ovipositor (egg-laying tube) with which they cut through the fruit skin and lay eggs inside. This is different to the familiar fruit flies, where eggs are laid on the surface of ripe fruit and the hatched larvae can only enter through any existing break in the fruit skin that they find (5)(6).

3. Exponential reproduction in a growing season

One to three eggs are laid per fruit. On average 400 eggs are laid during a lifetime that may range from 10 to 59 days. The hatched larvae feed mainly within the safety of the fruit and pupate.  Adults can emerge from the fruit after a minimum of 8 days, depending on temperature. Up to 10 generations of Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) can be produced within a growing season (5)(6).

Each individual fruit can be infected by a number of different females, increasing the damage caused by the feeding larvae. Further causes of fruit damage are opportunistic infection by other fruit flies, fungi, yeasts and bacteria through the holes created (5)(6).

4. Wide temperature tolerance for breeding

Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures, reproducing between 10 deg C and 30 deg C. Adults are cold tolerant and it is believed that mated females overwinter (5). The UK is well within its comfortable reproductive temperature range.

5. Long distance spread in fruit and also by flight

Long distance spread is likely to be via larvae and pupae hidden within harvested fruit moving across borders. Tracking studies on the close relative Drosophila melanogaster in 1961 showed that fruit flies could also travel at least 4.4 miles upwind within 24h (7). Targeted flight towards a food source by Spotted Wing Drosophila is quoted at 150m, they can however fly as far as 10km (8).

The Strategy: Monitor, Identify Control

With such a combination of factors creating a high potential for damage, how do you respond and control Spotted Wing Drosophila should it appear in your region?

The UK Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), under Defra, put together a fact-sheet  on Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) in 2010 (6) which included advice on potential control measures.
The pest has not entered the UK, so Fera also sent out a consultation invitation in January 2012 (11) requesting input on identifying the most appropriate response to SWD in the UK. Two options open for consideration were
  • No statutory action, leave industry to manage
  • Work in collaboration to limit spread, including limited statutory action when necessary
The document also outlines control options, indicating that an integrated approach will be needed (integrated pest management IPM).

The key message is to catch Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) as early as possible. The information sheet for Washington State wine grape growers gives the excellent mantra
Monitor, Identify, Control 
as an excellent memory aid (9).

Monitoring and identification can already be done by any grower in the UK with minimal effort.

Monitoring and Identifying Spotted Wing Drosophila

Fruit flies can be collected in 5% apple cider vinegar traps, also known as ACV traps (10)(11). These can easily be made economically from yoghurt pots or plastic bottles. Pierce the sides with holes a few millimetres wide or cover the opening with loose mesh cloth that will let fruit flies through. Add apple cider vinegar and a drop of detergent. Apple cider vinegar still appears to be the most effective attractant. The detergent serves to kill the flies. The pictures in the slideshow below show the results of an impromptu trial I conducted at home.

Traps should be set either as soon as temperatures exceed 10 degrees C or just before your crop is about to start ripening.

As a fruit grower, the simplest way to identify potential Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) from other fruit flies is – by the single wing spot on each of the wings. (The following photos are from specimens captured in Milton, Cambridgeshire, 2016)
Male SWD (Spotted Wing Drosophila, D. suzukii. showing wing spot. Photo Chris Thomas, miltoncontact

Female SWD (Spotted Wing Drosophila, D. suzukii. lacking wing spot but with serrated ovipositor.
Photo Chris Thomas, miltoncontact

Note: Only the males have the wing spots. As the sex ratio is lightly higher for females than males with this fruit fly early in the year, detecting males strongly suggests females are also present. Late Summer and Autumn, more males than females were found in traps in affected areas (12).

If you have access to a stereo-microscope, you can also search for females of SWD as they have a characteristic serrated (toothed) ovipositor (egg laying tube).

More pictures of male spotted wings and of female ovipositors to aid identification can be found in references (6)(8)(10). Holes in fruit created by egg-laying female Spotted Wing Drosophila are also another indicator of a potential problem.

Picture of D. suzukii by Wikimedia Commons contributor M Francisco

Control: Current Recommendations

The UK primary objectives (6, 10) are to:
  1. Control the adult flies before they can lay eggs in the fruit and
  2. Reduce fly populations available to re-infest later crops or carry over to the following year.
The following strategies can be used in an Integrated Pest Management for your crop if Spotted Wing Drosophila has been identified in your area.


Japanese research in 2007, quoted in (5), showed that netting of blueberry orchards with a 0.98 mm mesh net completely prevented blueberry damage by Spotted Wing Drosophila.
Since 85% of commercial soft fruit is grown in poly-tunnels in the UK, growers may be able to include the fine netting as part of their poly-tunnel design.

More frequent harvesting/crop hygiene 

More frequent harvesting of ripe fruit and removal of over-ripe, infected and leftover or spoilt fruit from the crop is important. It reduces the rate of fruit fly population growth during the growing season.

Spotted Wing Drosophila populations grow exponentially towards the end of Summer and into Autumn if unchecked. A larger surviving population of female fruit flies that can overwinter will create problems for you in the following year.

Some of the US advice is more controversial from an environmental perspective. The rationale proposed is that wild fruit and hedgerow plants will act as natural reservoirs of SWD and should therefore be removed close to agricultural areas (13)

Treatment of infected waste

Do not simply compost infected material as this does not kill larvae in the fruit and could actually make the situation worse. Fera mentions the use of deep burial (11). Solarization, insecticide treatment, disposal in closed containers, crushing, cold treatment, bagging and burial are all being investigated (6, 10, 14).

Bait traps

There are mixed messages about the effectiveness of bait traps for mass trapping of Spotted Wing Drosophila (mentioned in 11). The Penn State Extension quotes Japanese work where trapping with 60 to 100 vinegar traps per acre decreased SWD numbers (13).

Organic control 

As an organic grower you would already include the above control measures in your organic IPM. In addition, you may be able to use approved pesticides for organic growers.

Organic growers in Utah and the Pacific Northwest have used a rotation between Entrust, a spinosad pesticide and Pyganic, an organic pyrethrum insecticide (10, 15). Preliminary field trialling results with strawberries and caneberries using Entrust and Pyganic gave up to 5 days of Spotted Wing Drosophila control (16).

A Grower in the UK you need to check whether these organic pesticides can be used on your crops. We need more alternatives as a limited selection of approved pesticides will favour resistance developing.

Chemical control

Pesticides are applied as foliar sprays. The recommended timing is about two weeks before harvest, whilst the fruit is ripening. The aim is to try to kill the adults before they lay eggs. If your monitoring identifies high levels of Spotted Wing Drosophila, you can spray earlier.

Fera in the UK recommends using insecticides with generally lower human toxicity – such as spinosad, imidacloprid, acetamiprid and certain pyrethroids that have been shown to be effective. Obviously you will need to use the products registered for your individual crops (6).

The fast generation time of Spotted Wing Drosophila promotes the development of resistance if you use just one pesticide throughout a season.  Delay the onset of resistance by rotating different classes of insecticides during your season.

Detailed lists of pesticides permitted in the US and recommended for their crops are given in (5, 13, 15).  A comparison of insecticides looked at their impact on Spotted Wing Drosophila both in the laboratory and the field (17). Pyrethoids, organophosphates and spinosyns provided 5 to 15 days of residual control. In contrast, neonicotinoids were not so effective in killing adult flies and are currently not recommended.

IPM Area

Spotted Wing Drosophila can survive in wild fruits and travel large distances. Therefore integrated pest management needs to be applied to a wider area. This means taking in to account treatment in neighbouring crops and how to control SWD numbers in natural areas without detrimentally affecting pollinators and wildlife.

Future Control Options

The advance of Spotted Wing Drosophila in Europe and the US has generated a flurry of research into control measures (5, 18). Based on experience with close fruit fly relatives and other successful pest programs, a whole range of different options are in the pipeline.


Pesticide sprays may not penetrate  deep into the foliage.  The alternative could be application in a mist spray. In the US, trials were conducted on Blueberries using “chemigation”; they applied the pesticides with the cooling mists for the crop during the hottest part of the season. SWD mortality was well above 90%  with mists created using Netafilm micro-sprinklers (19).

Bait trapping

Fera and others mention the possibility of bait trapping (5, 6). Pesticides are added to bait that contains attractants. Feeding adults are then killed. Whilst baits for some fruit flies are known, the best bait for Spotted Wing Drosophila is still to be determined. Currently 5% apple cider vinegar still seems consistently effective as an attractant.

Parasitic wasps

Parasitic wasps have been used to control aphids in greenhouses and poly-tunnels. Naturally occurring parasitic wasps have either been hatched from Spotted Wing Drosophila pupae in the states (13, 20) or tested on SWD in Europe (21). In the latter, only parasitic wasps that attacked the pupae of Spotted Wing Drosophila could kill the pest, namely Trichopria cf drosophilae and P. vindemmieae. It appears that the larvae have some resistance to these wasps. Work is still continuing and the best control wasps then need to be multiplied to commercial levels.

Longer term options

Cini and coworkers wrote their review after the Trento international meeting on Spotted Wing Drosophila. This was attended by about 180 people (5) and also included ideas that would require more research and development.
Ideas being pursued are:

  • Searching for more organic and chemical control agents. We need more control agents in the pipeline.  Resistance to existing agents will inevitably arise over time.
  • Mating disruption using sterile male Spotted Wind Drosophila.
  • Finding and producing Spotted Wing Drosophila pheromones (sex-attractants) that can be used in traps.
  • Use of Drosophila specific DNA viruses.
  • Exploiting the ability of  bacteria from the genus Wolbachia to infect more than half of living insect species. Wolbachia can cause male feminisation and even death.

One of the accelerating factors in any research into Spotted Wing Drosophila is its relative Drosophila melanogaster, This fruit fly has been the work horse of genetics research for over a century. D. melanogaster DNA has been sequenced for some time. On the 4th July 2012, the Fondazione Edmund Mach announced that they had sequenced the Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) genome (22). These factors raise the hope that findings from one model system can be rapidly transferred to Spotted Wing Drosophila.


This article was written before the likely landfall of Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD, D. suzukii) in the UK. It includes UK advice and also the experiences of growers and researchers in the US and Europe where SWD is already present.

Spotted Wing Drosophila is a notifiable pest. The article describes how to monitor for SWD using 5% apple cider vinegar traps and how to identify the male and female Spotted Wing Drosophila if caught.

Fera has issued a Plant Pest Factsheet for Spotted wing drosophila Drosophila suzukii (6) which is the official source of information on the pest and its control in the UK. There is currently a consultation on UK policy towards Spotted Wing Drosophila (11) which should provide further official guidance when published.

This article provides information both on the existing UK guidance and the wider experience of growers in the USA and Europe who are currently battling with Spotted Wing Drosophila. This report should therefore be of interest for professional fruit growers and for gardeners in the UK who expect the arrival of the pest and are looking for a wider overview.

About the Author

Chris Thomas, PhD, is a former scientist with 20 years of experience in plant molecular biology and plant pathology.

I am now director of  my own company, Milton Contact Ltd (  founded in 2004. The company is active in a totally different area – helping companies communicate with their clients in print, pictures and person. Within the UK this involves anything from photography, writing articles and through to editing, designing and publishing books for local authors. Internationally, I assist overseas companies interested in entering the UK market.

This article was an opportunity I could not miss. It was a pleasure to be able to combine:
  • A continued interest in plant science and pathology 
  • Communicating the information to an audience of farmers, growers and gardeners
  • The ability to publish it and make it available to all.

My thanks to:

The fruit grower who came to my Cambridge Open Studios exhibition, saw the photo of a fruit fly head and first made me aware of the existence and risk of Spotted Wing Drosophila entering the UK
Thanks also to my neighbour Jo who had red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar and convenient plastic bottles on hand when she heard of my interest in setting up some fruit fly traps


  • (UPDATE Jan 2013, SWD DETECTED IN KENT, 2012)
  • (UPDATE JAN 2013 - Response to the Drosophila suzukii (the spotted wing drosophila) consultation:
  • (ADDED JAN 2013. Some sites recommend concentrated yeast extract and sugar solutions. I personally would not recommend using these for the following health and safety reason: Similar solutions are used for bacterial cultures, including fecal bacteria. Incidental contamination by animal or bird droppings, or flies that feed on droppings could result in a very high bacterial growth that may be detrimental to you. Also, it is very hard to see the SWD or any fruit flies in a fermented yeast soup!)
  • UPDATE Jan 2013. SWD is now NOT notifiable to Fera, because of its biology and it being almost impossible to control at present. Please DO send samples of any trapped adult Drosophila flies to: Dr Michelle Fountain, East Malling Research, New Road, East Malling, Kent ME 19 6BJ.
  • UPDATE Aug 2016. SWD is now an established pest in the UK.


  1. European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation, EPPO Archives (2011).
  2. Notifiable Pests and Diseases set by Defra/Fera 2010  – see 
  3. Drosophila suzukii 2012, Wikipedia.
  4. Bolda, M. P., Goodhue, R. E., and Zalom, F. G. (2009?), Spotted Wing Drosophila: Potential Economic Impact of a Newly Established Pest. Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics  -  University of California.
  5. Cini, A., Ioriatti, C. & Anfora, G. (2012), A review of the invasion of Drosophila suzukii in Europe and a draft research agenda for integrated pest management. Bulletin of Insectology 65 (1): 149-160, 2012.
  6. Anderson, H., Collins, D. and Cannon, R. (2010), Spotted wing drosophila Drosophila suzukii. The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) Plant Pest Factsheet, Crown copyright 2010
  7. Yerington, A. P.  & Warner, R. M.  1961, Flight Distances of Drosophila Determined with Radioactive Phosphorus. Journal of Economic Entomology, Volume 54, Number 3, June 1961 , pp. 425-428(4).
  8. Draft pest risk analysis report for Drosophila suzukii, October 2010.  Biosecurity Australia.
  9. “Spotted Wing Drosophila: What Washington State wine grape growers need to know”.
  10. Utah Pests Fact Sheet. Spotted Wing Drosophila 2010
  11. Letter: Consultation on policy against Drosophila suzukii, 06/01/12, Fera
  12. Biology and Management of Spotted Wing Drosophila on Small and Stone Fruits: Year 2 Reporting Cycle. SWD Research Review Summer 2012. USDA-NIFA-SCRI Funded Project 2010-61181-21167.
  13. Spotted Wing Drosophila Management, June 22, 2012. Penn State Extension of the Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences. 
  14. Walsh, D.B., Bolda, M.P.,  Goodhue, R.E.,  Dreves, A.J.,  Lee, J.,  Bruck, D.J.,  Walton, V.M.,  O’Neal, S.D. and Zalom F.G. 2011. Drosophila suzukii (Diptera: Drosophilidae): invasive pest of ripening soft fruit expanding its geographic range and damage potential. J. Integ. Pest Mngmt. 2(1): 2011; DOI: 10.1603/IPM10010.
  15. Isaacs, R., Tritten, B., Van Timmeren, S., Wise, J., Garcia-Salazar, C. and Longstroth, M. 2011, Spotted Wing Drosophila Management Recommendations for Michigan Raspberry and Blackberry Growers, Updated  August 2011.
  16. Bolda, M. July 2010. Results of Trial Testing the Efficacy of Several Organically Registered Pesticides for Control of Spotted Wing Drosophila in Raspberry.
  17.  Bruck, D.J., Bolda, M., Tanigoshi, L., Klick, J.,Kleiber, J., DeFrancesco, J., Gerdeman, B., Spitler, H. 2011. Laboratory and field comparisons of insecticides to reduce infestation of Drosophila suzukii in berry crops. Pest Manag Sci. 2011 Nov;67(11):1375-85. doi: 10.1002/ps.2242. Epub 2011 Jul 28.
  18. Biology and Management of Spotted Wing Drosophila on Small and Stone Fruits: Year 2 Reporting Cycle. SWD Research Review Summer 2012. USDA-NIFA-SCRI Funded Project 2010-61181-21167.
  19.  David Eddy, July 2012, Blueberry Mistigation For SWD Control: Applying pesticides through cooling misters pays off. Growing Produce.
  20. Brown, P. H., Mid-Columbia Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Oregon State University, Hood River, OR Shearer, P. W. OR Miller, J. C. OR Howard MA. Nov 2011, The discovery and rearing of a parasitoid (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae) associated with spotted wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii, in Oregon and British Columbia. Entomology Society of America, ESA Annual Meetings Online Program.
  21. Chaberta, S., Allemanda, R., Poyeta, M., Eslin, P. and Gilberta, P.  2012. Ability of European parasitoids (Hymenoptera) to control a new invasive Asiatic pest, Drosophila suzukii.
  22. News July 2012, Drosophila suzukii's genome sequenced. Fondazione Edmund Mach
  23. (UPDATE JAN 2013 - Response to the Drosophila suzukii (the spotted wing drosophila) consultation: