… And Burgers for All

Back in 2014, Belgium decided to tolerate the use of insects as a ‘novel food’. One of the upshots of this was that a nearby zoo started serving insectburgers, and I couldn’t resist. The burgers were nicely meaty, if a bit bland, but they do point towards a much more efficient source of protein.

The insectburger was made from ground mealworms and now these have finally been approved for consumption across the whole of the EU.

The European agricultural strategy ‘From Farm to Fork’ identifies insects as an alternative source of protein that can help make the food system more sustainable.

And we do need to eat more sustainably.

Charismatic minifauna

There is something about wasp related news that really appeals to me. That said, I have no qualms about murdering the wee beasties when the build a nest in my own garden.

A new study into how the many species of stinging wasps contribute both to the ecosystem and human society, however, suggests that a more live and let live attitude might be in order.

“Wasps are one of those insects we love to hate – and yet bees, which also sting, are prized for pollinating our crops and making honey,” the study’s lead author, Professor Seirian Sumner of UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, told Eurekalert.

“In a previous study, we found that the hatred of wasps is largely due to widespread ignorance about the role of wasps in ecosystems, and how they can be beneficial to humans.”

Not only do they pollinate 960 species of plant — 164 of which depend on the wasp entirely — they also keep crops free from pests in their role as apex predator. The pest control aspect is not new, though, with Brazil farmers using live wasps for pest control as far back as 2013.

According to Professor Sumner:

Wasps are understudied relative to other insects like bees, so we are only now starting to properly understand the value and importance of their ecosystem services. Here, we have reviewed the best evidence there is, and found that wasps could be just as valuable as other beloved insects like bees, if only we gave them more of a chance.

I’m all for giving wasps more of a chance. Especially if they nest in someone else’s garden.

Unpausing

The Easter Pause didn’t have as much impact as hoped but the Covid numbers have been deemed to be enough under control for the break to end on Monday, as planned. This means, among other things, that people can meet outside in groups of up to ten, we no longer need to make an appointment to go shopping and hairdressers and other non-medical contact professions can re-open with restrictions. I think I need a haircut again.

The big news, though, is that bars and restaurants with terraces can reopen on 8th May. There are a number of restrictions, but these amount to: go with a small group, or your household; stay seated; and be out by 10:00. Not all restaurants are going to be able to re-open because the tables have to be at least 1.5 metres apart, but I’m feeling optimistic.

May 8th is also when restrictions on youth club activities start to bee loosened, with a further relaxation (provisionally, as always) on 25th June. This should mean that the boys will be able to go on summer camp this year.

This, of course, all depends on people getting vaccinated so it’s good to see that the Belgian vaccination campaign is receiving something of a boost, with the delivery of nearly 900,000 coronavirus vaccines. This, along with the minimum age limit for the AstraZeneca vaccine being lowered will, hopefully, see the schedule speeding up a bit.

According to the Flemish Health Minister, Flanders is expecting to have half of it’s population vaccinated by the end of May, at which point things can start returning to normal.

Here’s hoping that we can all look forward to August.

Quote of the day: Boris being Boris

[A lot of senior government figures are] seemingly incapable of grasping that the entire executive taking on the character of this amoral and discipline-free man will end very badly indeed. It is precisely Johnson’s lack of discipline and moral courage that has resulted in this country having both the highest Covid death toll in Europe and the most unnecessarily long economic shutdown and loss of essential freedoms. Gloating that the voters don’t think they deserve better will not be the recipe for a great British future.

Marina Hyde

Perspective

Research: Covid-19 more likely to cause blood clots than any vaccine

Infection by the virus that causes Covid-19 is about 100 times more likely to cause blood clots in the brain that any Covid vaccine on the market, according to a new study carried out by Oxford University.

With people all over the place panicking about the AstraZeneca and, more recently, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it is worth keeping in mind that any risk associated with either of these vaccines is trivial compared to the risks associated with Covid.

Vaccination is an essential part of getting the coronavirus under control. Let’s not give the virus any help by over-emphasizing minor and unproven issues elsewhere.

Feels like 2020

With Coronavirus indicators continuing to rise, it came as a surprise to no-one that Belgium is going into lockdown again. This was announced yesterday and the new restrictions take effect on Monday.

The new and tightened rules all amount to reducing the numbers of contacts we have with each other, with aim of having a short, hard lockdown now in order to avoid longer lasting one later.

For us, the main impact is that schools are closed next week. Macsen has end-of-term exams, which are permitted but we will have to wait to hear from the school as to how these will be organised. As for William and Alexandre, we are also waiting to hear from their school whether any online learning will be organised or if they are going to have a three-week Easter break.

Non-essential journeys within Belgium are still allowed and the zoos remain open, so even with these new restrictions we’re not entirely trapped. Just as long as none of us tries to talk to anyone.