Harvesting 1 – Silly season for newspapers

The News of the World, one of our less (possibly the least) accurate Sunday papers, is running a story today on the predicted ‘shortage of mistletoe and holly berries’ – linked to climate change.


Their argument appears to be as follows:

  • There is a huge ‘early’ crop of both mistletoe and holly berries this season
  • This is due to climate change
  • The birds are greedily feeding on this ‘early’ feast and stripping the plants bare
  • Therefore there will be no berries left by Christmas


This is, of course, a load of utter bollocks.  The facts are these:

  • Yes, there is a huge crop of both mistletoe and holly berries this season
  • Yes, this may be (or may be not) due to climate change (there was a very bad holly berry crop last year – which suggests these are simply cyclical changes, not climate change)
  • No the berries are not early – just plentiful
  • No, the birds are not stripping the plants bare – for two reasons:
    • It has been a very mild autumn (which almost certainly is due to climate change) and this means that birds have plentiful other food still – berry-stripping is associated with the later stages of very hard winters, not the end of a very mild autumn.    
    • If there are lots of berries now, normal (and possibly less than normal) consumption by birds will mean there plenty left by Christmas.  Even with increased consumption there is plenty to go round.
  • So there will be a bumper crop of berries at Christmas, not a shortage   



Never believe what you read in the Sunday papers, and certainly not in the News of the World.  (I’m told the Daily Express has picked up the same story – not sure if that’s true, but if so they really ought to know better)