When is a pest not a pest?

Sometimes you can find yourself getting into trouble when you least expect it. Of all the media outlets and radio shows that might from time to time want to take issue with the AA, the ‘Mooney Goes Wild’ radio programme is probably the one that you would least expect.

But that is just what happened to me last week. My phone rang on Friday afternoon and it was an RTE researcher to tell me that no less a figure than Eanna Ni Lamhna was furious with me. What’s more she wanted to tell me so in no uncertain terms live on the radio programme.

I’m very much a fan of Eanna’s and I enjoy the Mooney Show and their chats about Irish wildlife so I was a little bit taken aback.

The context was the AA Consumer Panel survey. A lot of people will be very familiar with that as it is an ongoing exercise that we have been running for years. As the representative body for Ireland’s motorists we spend a lot of time and effort trying to find out what the country’s drivers actually think about the issues of the day.

We issue surveys to AA Members and customers asking for views on a whole range of issues. This can cover everything from the state of the roads to what people think about Gardai or speed cameras.

Although we will always be best known for fixing people’s cars there is in fact a good deal more to us than that. In recent times we have an additional service where we fix problems in people’s houses. Dodgy boilers, broken windows, electrical faults and things of that sort. We will send an AA Home Rescue technician out to help. Included in this is sorting out pest infestations.

So we were curious to know what sort of pest infestations people are experiencing and we put in a question that asked them about it. We asked about rats, mice, bees, wasps, ants and various other creatures. This in turn is what had Eanna concerned.

Bees, as she pointed out to me very clearly, are not pests. Nor indeed are lots of other creatures that you may or may not want to share your house with. So I metaphorically strapped on my crash helmet and prepared to get thoroughly savaged by one of the country’s foremost nature experts.

In fact we had a very friendly chat about it. The lady herself is far too nice a person to stay angry for any length of time and to be fair she had a very good point.

I suppose the debate centres around your definition of a pest. A weed is only a weed because of where it is growing. It may be a completely respectable plant anywhere else but if it turns up in a gardener’s vegetable patch then it has got to go.

In the same way you might be all in favour of bees and mice and ants and wish them all the best in Ireland’s ecosystem, but if you have a wasp’s nest in the attic and small children in the house then it something that you will want dealt with.

In fact I think it all came out right in the end. I was a little chastened and a good deal better informed afterwards. I was also contacted subsequently by Paul Whelan of www.biology.ie .

Paul tells me that his organisation have been conducting a ‘Road Kill Survey’ since 2006. Drivers report sighting of creatures that they see on road sides and the data builds up. Apparently we now know a lot more about the Pine Marten population because of sightings reported via www.biology.ie and their excellent mobile phone Apps.

This is a very good example of how motorists and nature-lovers can in fact be natural allies and not pitched against each other as is too often the case.

I look forward to sharing the survey results with the Mooney team when we have them and if I work hard at it I may eventually earn my way back into Eanna’s good books.

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