I’ve always thought that if I can entice insects and wildlife into my garden, then well… I’m doing something right;
even if I don’t always notice them, I’m doing something right.
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?
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…
… preferably singles rather than doubles, for easily accessible nectar and pollen.
As a bonus, when a new species visits your garden, it’ll feel like a personal triumph.
It’ll feel like a personal triumph.
It’ll feel like a personal triumph.
Planting flowers or sowing seed with an eye to attracting bees and butterflies, really does pay off.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.