Three Simple Ways To Encourage Insects Into Your Garden

I’ve always thought that if I can entice insects and wildlife into my garden, then well… I’m doing something right;

A nicely camouflaged thick-legged flower beetle on love-in-a-mist

even if I don’t always notice them, I’m doing something right.

Hornet on Dahlia ‘Twyning’s After Eight’

Of course, we all know that insect numbers are falling but, as depressing as that is, here are three simple steps we can take to help and encourage them in our gardens.

First of all, and the most simplest, just don’t use non-organic pesticides. Why would you want to spray poison on your garden, anyway?

A wren scooping up aphids to feed her young

Like any gardener, I am occasionally bothered by pest insects, but generally I find that when non-organic treatments prove ineffective, a useful predator will come along to lend a hand.

The second step is to plant flowers, lots of flowers…

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ – a beautiful, bee friendly single

… preferably singles rather than doubles, for easily accessible nectar and pollen.

Clouded Yellow butterfly on Verbena

As a bonus, when a new species visits your garden, it’ll feel like a personal triumph.

Painted Lady butterfly on Verbena

It’ll feel like a personal triumph.

Hummingbird hawk-moth feeding on valerian

It’ll feel like a personal triumph.

Honeybees piling into a single opium poppy

Planting flowers or sowing seed with an eye to attracting bees and butterflies, really does pay off.

Marbled White on Achillea

Lavender, valerian, Verbena, and Achillea are just a few examples of what to plant. The Gardeners’ World website provides an extensive list of bee-friendly flowers here.

Tree Bumblebee on Hydrangea petiolaris

No list of suitable flowers will be exhaustive but if you generally stick to simple, single flowers, you can’t go far wrong.

The third way to pull insects into your garden is by setting up bee hotels.

I have several of these home-made bee hotels in my garden, made from old rattan place-mats and bamboo canes.

You can buy these of course, but they are dead easy to make, so save your money. Simply tie together a handful of short bamboo canes, twigs or the like and secure them to a fence or similar in full or part sun. A small brushwood pile left undisturbed in a quiet corner of your garden also works very well.

You can easily provide homes for all manner of insects – including leaf cutter bees – by drilling holes in timber; as I have done here. Last spring, within a few days of drilling a variety of different sized holes into these old posts, three of them were neatly blocked off by little circles of leaf. So, that was satisfying.

And finally, – and I know I’m pushing my luck here – here’s a brief word in defence of wasps.

Regular readers will remember my battle with wasps one year at the Priory (link here). (I lost the battle, btw).

A nest-box in my garden didn’t attract the inhabitants I’d expected

But despite the number of stings I’ve endured, I have never arranged for the destruction of a wasp nest.

Which can be inconvenient… if not insurmountably so. On moving into our current house, we discovered a large wasp nest in the garden shed. Originally fastened to the ceiling, the enormous paper nest had dropped to the floor – where the wasps continued to build and tend it.

We knew that if we waited, the first few frosts would kill off the wasps and we’d be able remove the nest, and…

study its amazing structure. As the wasps were in the shed before we bought the house, it felt wrong not to let them finish their season in peace. (Wasps don’t reuse nests or nest sites).

As well as being important pollinators, wasps are top insect predators and according to the Natural History Museum, social wasps in the UK capture an estimated 14 million kilograms of insect prey a year. Uh huh, that’s a lot of aphids.

Wasp nest on a lawn at the Priory. I learnt – in time – to mow around it

So next time you hear someone say, ‘What is the point of wasps?’ put them straight, would you? And please don’t needlessly destroy wasp and hornet nests.

But do be careful when you mow.

Hmm, I probably haven’t convinced you to go hug a wasp but I hope you agree that encouraging a range of insects and increasing biodiversity in your garden is a benefit to everybody.

And the first time you see a hummingbird hawk-moth darting about your garden, I can assure you, that you’ll be as delighted as I was.

oooOOOooo

As this blog post forms part of a research project for my degree course, I’d be particularly grateful for any comments, insights, likes and shares.

Thanks very much.

25 thoughts on “Three Simple Ways To Encourage Insects Into Your Garden

  1. I learned so much about attracting insects and protecting wasps from this post! And the photos are spectacular. I’m quite the opposite of a gardener so it was very informative. Brilliant post! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi David, great article, and I don’t know how you managed to get some of those lovely photos. With regard to wasps, I would just point out that it’s not just pests they kill. I’ve seen them dispatching bees and hoverflies in large numbers – not for food, but just to kill off the competition for nectar! Oh, and if you notice your rose buds are being nibbled to destruction, the cause is likely to be…wasps!

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    • Fair point, well made re social wasps killing not only the baddies. But, then I guess that is true of most predators? I’d still argue that wasps play a crucial part in an incomprehensibly complex interweaving of species. It must be better to allow them to fulfil that role as predator and pollinator than destroy their nests without good reason. That’s my thinking anyway. Interesting point re rosebuds. I’ve never noticed that! All the best, David

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  3. Great tips, David, relayed with wit and whimsy… Had not realized wasps are a peak predator! Kudos to you and your partner for such patience, despite definite inconvenience (*and possible peril ; ) As you say, growing flowers is simple, and so rewarding. Also, who would deliberately add poison to their garden? On thing to add would be that
    planting shrubs + trees, in addition to perennials/annuals is another way to really maximize flowers in limited space, as is providing plants that bloom throughout most of the year. Not possible in some places, but in most of England it is possible, esp. if planting natives. If well-chosen they greatly extend the seasonal interest of our gardens, as well as providing pollen, and even berries for Those Who Eat Insects: our feathered friends. Stellar photos, as usual! Thanks again for the info… and a reminder of how we all can make a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jo. I hoped you’d step in with copious wisdom and you didn’t disappoint! I think it is only as a collective that we can make a difference – on the scale and timescale necessary. That was the point of this blogpost: a small nudge to show how little steps, replicated, can make a difference. What I do find heartening – amongst all the environmental havoc – is just how much more people care, how attitudes have changed and are changing towards our environment. We all, as gardeners, have mastery over amazing ecosystems and it is up to us to nourish and cherish them. Obvs! Dx

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  4. Great post, David. I concur, we have to do everything we can to help maintain and promote insect biodiversity in our yards (and thus out to the world). One point I would add to the above is to plant host plants for larva. Butterflies get a lot of attention by folks planting nectar plants, but it is the larval host plants that really bring them in. I urge people to get to know larva and allow a certain amount of munching in the garden. I used to be bothered by chewed leaves, now I celebrate it! Time to change the tidy garden paradigm!
    Good luck with your educational pursuits!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been trying to maintain a small wildlife friendly garden in a Greater London borough since the early 1980s when I saw Chris Baines’ programme on the telly called ‘Blue tits and bumblebees.’
    In past times it was rich in hoverflies and lacewings, ladybirds and spiders, froglets, beetles, bees and many kinds of birds. Not anymore. The reduction in all these beasties is obvious and terrible. I’ve been doing all you suggest for pretty much 40 years – so where do we go from here?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know where we go from here, Sharon. My thinking behind this small blog post was simply to nudge, just to suggest to readers that even little steps – on a big enough scale – can make a difference. (The idea came from a client saying that she didn’t care if spraying her roses killed any insects! A little piece of me died that day). Of course, gardeners alone can’t shift the world but if we all care and speak out and take whatever action we can, then maybe we can improve biodiversity. Just maybe. I for one have to believe that – or else I would stop gardening now. I’ve always gardened as much for wildlife as I have for plants. All the best, David

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  6. You always manage to balance your writing with just the right amount of photographs which keeps the reader wanting more. Your empathy, passion, incredible knowledge (by the way) and your obvious humour and delight in sharing what you share, comes through again and again.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I will join you in the minority in praise of wasps. The first time I watched one flying off with a curl grub, kicking and (presumably) screaming,* I knew they were allies. Dangerous allies with their own agendas, but still. They seemed initially to be drawn to my garden by the birdbath, fwiw, so I’ll echo Irene on the importance of water, both at waist and ground level. Wonderful—and courageous!—photos of all those stinging things, Dave. Hope your program is going well. xS

    *Curl grubs bring out a vengeful streak in me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, that’s me and you at least, Stacy, in praise of wasps. A gang of 2!! Whoop whoop. The amount of work for my degree is blocking out the sun at the moment but yeah, it’s going pretty well. I think! I’ll email you, promise, when my feet re-touch the ground. Dx p.s. Blast those curl grubs, whatever they may be

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This was very informative and entertaining – and the photos are gorgeous. I’ve always enjoyed your writing. I’ve gardened in Los Angeles, California, Portland, Oregon, San Antonio, Texas (horrible soil and heat) and now in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. All have different joys and challenges. Best wishes to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I enjoy sharing experiences with other pollinator friendly gardeners as you always learn something. My big yellow Achillea never seems to attract pollinators but perhaps I should check more. You do have to look for them. I just discovered a flower that I am not so fond of actually attracts bumble bees – it is just that I have never looked much at it before. Planting flowers and trees is so important for the pollinators – not as I often hear over here that you should keep honeybees as they are at risk of extinction. Lovely photographs, as usual. Amelia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes indeed, thanks Irene. I initially had half a dozen steps – including providing water and not mowing – but wanted to simplify the list. I remember when I kept bees watching workers lining up along my pond’s edge to drink. Dave

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