Ragwort-pullers threaten ecology of the Forest

Wednesday 7th August 2013

7th August 2013

The New Forest’s delicate ecological balance is being threatened by ‘do-gooders’ who have unofficially taken it upon themselves to pull up ragwort from various parts of the open Forest. Ragwort within dried hay is known to cause illness in horses and hay-growers have a duty to remove it from their hay crop. But horses and ponies will not eat it as a live plant within open heathland and pasture. Indeed, ragwort and New Forest ponies have co-existed happily for centuries with no recorded cases of ragwort poisoning. However, ragwort pulling can have a disastrous impact on the insect life of the New Forest where ragwort is one of the most important forage plants for butterflies, bees and other flower-visiting insects. With so much concern for the plight of bees and other pollinators within the arable landscape of Britain, the flowery areas of the New Forest, which are free from harmful pesticides such as neonicotinoids, are more important than ever.

Steven Falk, Entomologist at Buglife and an expert on the New Forest’s insect life said “ragwort pulling in the New Forest is a truly ill-informed and damaging activity that is totally unnecessary.  There are so many rare insects in the Forest, and it is well known that a general reduction in the number of flowers in the Forest over recent decades has placed many insects under severe threat of extinction there. Examine any patch of flowering ragwort in fine weather and you will see an astonishing array of bees, butterflies, hoverflies and beetles”.