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:

Friday 10 August 2012

Our visit to Samuel Pepys’ house in Brampton

Up, though not so early this Friday as I did the last, for which I am sorry, and though late am resolved to get up betimes before the season of rising be quite past.

To St Ives to fit myself for discourse in the Taproom. Mightily amused by the dismay of my friends who did rise early only to find the Coffee House shut at the appointed hour due to the tardy arrival of the servant who received a derisory booing by both guests and the kitchen.

By and by by Omnibus  to Hinchingbrooke Hospital and so to Brampton, and anon called into the house of the late lamented Mr Pepys, there to meet my Huntingdonshire friends to bear me company for a tour.

Staid in the house a good while listening to the most informed Mrs Curtis on the diverse altercations in Mr Pepys’ life as recounted in his diary and the historie of the building to the present day.

Thence to the most pleasant garden where Mr Foster and his wife entertained us with coffee and tea.

By and by we tooke leave and parted to our various coaches. Mr Wishart agreed to accompany me back towards Hinchingbrooke park where we dined on iced cream and chocolate and found it most refreshing.

Came to look for my omnibus and found it late and so continued our discourse until it arrived and so home for supper.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

The disenfranchising nature of the internet in society - a Rant

This morning has left me angry. Frustrated and angry. Not for myself but for those who are discriminated against and made to feel it is their fault when they battle with the internet.

It all started with the simple task of topping up a mobile broadband account, continued to a farce with attempting online payment and ended with an unsatisfactory solution.

I had set up a pay as you go mobile broadband account with a major UK player for a friend of mine. It is a straightforward system that has worked happily for over a year. Up to today, I had made payments with my friend re-paying me retrospectively.

However, people do prefer to be independent and we decided that she would learn how to top up the mobile broadband herself. After all, it should be straightforward, we thought.

An hour later we had devised a three page (!) set of instructions. At last, we reached the final payment page. Hurrah! We thought. But no, doom was at hand.

Having cleared the hurdles of name, address, bank card details etcetera, it came to the complete payment button. Up popped the card verification window. Authorisation failed.

A further hour was spent in telephone calls to the card provider. Everything was apparently rectified in that time. So back to payment attempt 2 - and 3 - and 4. Payment still failed.

We reverted to the old pattern of my paying - and were done within 10 minutes

By this time my friend, an intelligent, self sufficient professional woman with a lot of experience and knowledge, was left feeling as if she was inadequate and unable to control her own destiny. It makes me angry that she is the one who feels the blame - not the convoluted, user unfriendly internet systems which had entangled her.

The vast majority of people can go into a shop and pay by cash or card. The vast majority of people can go into a bank and receive assistance. The vast majority do not have the same experience on the internet. Yes, many do but you have to be quite internet literate if you want to shop and pay online. 

Think back to the first time you tried paying for something on the internet - the accounts you had to set up, verifications by e-mail, getting your payment cards verified. Now it all seems to work smoothly for you - but at the start it did not appear so simple.

And woe betide you if things go wrong! Many companies have poor and often hidden customer support, never mind the often impossibility of talking to someone you can understand. Remember that surge of trepidation when dealing with questionnaires or pressure from official organisations to do everything online; Where errors  can send you on a time-wasting merry-go-round - with the additional threat of loss of benefits or legal action due to non-compliance.

This disenfranches those in our society with fear of technology, those unfamiliar with it due to age, those who face additional hurdles due to hearing or sight impairment. People who have been included and independent previously suddenly find themselves forced into greater dependency on those more comfortable with online systems.

I am also angry because it has created a new type of discrimination - between those comfortable with technology and striving to adopt ever more - and those who do not. Look out for the gentle ribbing, the one-upmanship, the downright glee when someone can delight at the discomfort of those battling with technology.

There are trends in the internet towards greater simplification and accessibility. After all, businesses and organisations do want to maximise the number of users and customers. However, we still have a long way to go.

You DO have a right to be angry. Be proactive, let businesses and organisations know that they could do better. That way we can all work our way back to a more inclusive society.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Cambridge Open Studios Milton 2012

Two weekends of welcoming visitors to my Cambridge Open Studio 2012 passed in a mixture of quiet hours and sudden rushes. New work hung framed on one of the two exhibition walls and there was also a collection of mounted work to see.

The work looks at both familiar and unfamiliar subjects in a new light - close up and under the microscope. The photos display a range of illumination techniques.
  • Top lighting is where natural or photo lights are shore onto the subject as in conventional photography
  • Transmitted light is where the light shines through from behind the subject - similar to photographing stained glass
  • Darkfield illumination is where light is shone from an angle at a transparent object, making it glow against a dark background
  • Polarisation uses transmitted light with a polarising filter between the light and the sample and a second filter between the sample and the camera. The background is black with the filters at 90 degrees to each other and samples display a spectrum of colours depending on their thickness and composition
  • Polarisaton with wave attenuation. This is the same as simple polarisation with the addition of a  sheet of plastic between the first polarisation filter and the sample. Rotation of the plastic sheet and the polarisation filters can give different colour backgrounds.
  • Phase A. This is a type of illumination called phase contrast. it makes thin samples with only slight differences in contrast stand out more as bright lines against a darker background.
The aim is to use the skills to bring out the unusual and aesthetic in a particular object.

There were two other enjoyable factors during the exhibition. 

First, I was able to extend my portrait practice of parents with sons or daughters - you can see the results at

Second, I always have a stereomicroscope on hand for people to look through. Gems on jewellery are a favourite, however, this year I found living gems in the form of the relatively new resident to the UK, the iridescent purple and bronze leaf beetle Chysolina americana - look at them in video here

Thank you to all my visitors and the interesting conversations that we had.

Seven tips for scientists talking to a wider audience

There was a palpable charge in the air at today's meeting of the Huntingdonshire Business Network!  A clash of two cultures – science and complementary medicine threatened to arise when the validity of one was queried by the other.

As a professional scientist now active in a totally unrelated business world, this reminded me of my rapid adaptation from talking to non-scientists before and after the transition.

Hence my personal seven tips for scientists talking to a wider audience.

Before that, I would like to describe the realities of the world beyond the safety of a science or technical environment

The majority of the population do not understand science & technology.

In the UK have the proportion of our workforce working in science and engineering is about 35% according to figures in 2010. Gender bias and self selection at an early age sadly mean that only 5%  of the science and engineering workforce are women (“Statistics: Women and men in science, engineering and technology. The UK statistics guide 2010” ). So two thirds of your audience is likely to have only a very limited knowledge of your area of expertise from the start. The remainder are likely to equally ignorant of your specialism.

Most people do not think like a scientist.

Science uses evidence based research with a unique twist: You (and your competition) use reproducible experiments to test any hypothesis in your field of interest. In my experience, this has two consequences. 1. If someone makes a statement – I immediately look for a counterargument to test its validity and 2. If sufficient evidence against my hypotheses is presented, I will accept that a change of ideas is needed – even if grudgingly!

The rest of the world does not necessarily think the same way. Ideas are sometimes readily accepted if they fit within a world view and facts might be ignored if they do not suit. This is the main stumbling block for scientists trying to communicate outside of their field. Presenting ideas or evidence in a scientific way does not necessarily result in people accepting them.

Science is seen as just one of many world views

The practical aspects of science and technology mean that people trust their car's engineering and their conventional medicine of their GPs and hospitals. They might also have a belief in one or more gods, astrology, The Only Way is Essex, personality tests and business management systems. They will be influenced by culture and preconceptions about gender and race. What's more, they can even hold  several totally contradictory views simultaneously.

Even scientists are not immune from this. The mathematical giant Newton's other interest was alchemy. Conan Doyle believed in the incisive rationality that lead to Sherlock Holmes and forensic science – and in fairies. Whilst non-religion and atheism are especially prevalent amongst scientists,  estimates suggest between 30% to 50% believe in God or gods.

So, faced with a potential audience that does not understand science, has its own often contradictory world views and may not be predisposed to change them. How DO you address them in a way that will be heard?

Seven tips for scientists talking to wider audiences:

  1. Accept that people may have different world views. You do not have to agree or condone their views. In most instances you can just respect that they have them.
  2. Make clear that your views are expressed within a science or technical framework. “This is my background and the way I approach the subject” is a good way to make it easier for an audience to listen more receptively.
  3. Do not aim to prove the other party wrong. This is the fastest way to put up barriers. Avoid words such as “but”, “however”, “nevertheless”. They immediately raise resistance. You can disagree or agree to disagree. Phrases like “my personal view” or “the view of … is” allow you to reiterate what your position is without being confrontational.
  4. KISS (Keep it simple, stupid). Try to have a clear simple, message or point. Assume no prior knowledge by the audience right from the start. The ideal is where your audience can leave with a clear memory of your key message.
  5. Use positive language where possible. True passion and excitement will keep your audience engaged. Remember that whenever you talk as a scientist to non-scientists, you are an ambassador for science. 
  6. Make sure you know your facts and know your limits. Both generally earn respect from an audience.
  7. Be true to your values. Points 1 to 6 are all about accommodating and adapting to your audience. This does not mean that you cannot draw a line where there is an obvious conflict with your own values. 

Returning to the frisson at the Huntingdonshire Business Meeting – how did the situation pan out there today?

It immediately became apparent that we had as many different world views as people in the room – with all joining in the lively conversation. Some were more sympathetic to the  alternative healing cause, others leant towards science. God and spirituality were thrown in the mix as well as pragmatism - “how you get there is less important than that it produces the desired result”.

The overall tenor of the meeting was however to find a conciliatory solution.  In the end we acknowledged that we all had different views. Situation defused, we went on to a gentler, more entertaining second half of the meeting, with more insight about our friends and business colleagues.