It's winter, when professional ecologists use the down-time to refresh and update our knowledge. This Christmas a new and invidious invasive species is invading our homes and spreading rapidly, so here I present an important guide to the ecology of this worrying species. I am of course speaking about the Lindt chocolate teddy-bear.
This dangerous invasive is native to the Zurich area of Switzerland, but, like Chinese mitten crabs, skunk cabbage and white-clawed crayfish, human actions have brought them to this country and they are spreading rapidly...dangerously so.
It has been said that we are never more than 6 feet away from a rat. Whilst this is an urban myth, it is possible that Lindt chcololate teddy populations may be growing to the point where it may be true of them. Every day my wife Rona has to spend time searching the house, removing many teddies from their hiding places around the house. Individually they may be cute, but in large numbers their thousand-yard stare becomes alarming and threatening, especially as nobody knows exactly what they are plotting.
What is particularly worrying is the large gaps in our understanding of chocolate teddy ecology. For example, we know little about their diet and where they gain the resources required to support their unusually rapid reproduction. However, there have been sightings of packs of teddies slaying Lindt chocolate reindeer and feasting on them.
The social structure of a teddy colony is complex and unusual, with possible parallels to ant or wasp colonies. As well as being found as individuals, teddies are sometimes found in groups.
There have been very occasional sightings of large accumulations of teddies engaging in mass communication of some kind, with giant queen teddies at the centre of the colony. It is believed that these mass meetings lead to mass dispersal, with teddies hiding around the house, watching and waiting for something.
It's easy to dismiss Lindt chocolate teddy-bears as being a seasonal and harmless invasive species and particularly tasty and it is true to say that their main predator is my chocaholic wife Rona. However they do seem to breed very rapidly at this time of year and social media does indicate signficiant prublic concern about them.