Over the last week, I’ve seen a few signs that people are setting up things such as “insect hotels” in their gardens in order to attract as many bugs as possible over the coming months, and that some have started putting out moth traps to see what’s making a return to their garden now the milder weather seems to be settling in. Although insects will ideally have used these “hotels” as places to over-winter in, it’s still important to make sure they have places they can hide out now the weather is warming up. Here at Natures Home, as I’m sure many of you will have noticed, we help to spread the word about the wider variety of wildlife that you can all help to provide for right from your own garden, and why. Feel free to check out some more advice from the RSPB's website on how to garden for wildlife.
Copyright Ed Marshall. Bees such as this red-tailed bumble bee (Bombus lapidarius) are becoming more active now, and it's important that you have plenty of plant life in your garden in order to provide them with a source of nectar to keep them going.
One of the best things you can do to provide space for invertebrates in your garden is to have something like a compost heap or log pile, basically somewhere you can put garden waste to make sure that there is plenty of food and space for bugs to make their home. Now I’m sure that many of you who are keen gardeners will be wondering why you should encourage these insects into your garden, when many spend a great amount of effort preventing them from eating our vegetables, fruits and plants in the first place. Well, there are many species of bugs that are important for a healthy garden and many species can help to control levels of unwanted species. The best known example of this is our good old seven-spot ladybird and their control of aphid populations. By creating a wildlife friendly garden, you can ensure you attract plenty to keep you occupied over the coming summer months.
Copyright Ed Marshall. Every gardeners best friend. Ladybirds will keep numbers of aphids in check in any garden, helping to protect the plants that grow there.
Doing this isn’t only for the insects of your garden either, because with a healthy population of insects you will hopefully see a healthy population of garden birds and who knows, in time a hedgehog or two may even catch wind of the bounty that is on offer in your garden. So for the sake of invertebrates in your area, please do what you can to encourage them to set up home in your garden. Some of you may have already seen that our very own Mark Ward has been keeping his eyes peeled for potential habitats that he can place in his own garden, as he mentions in his recent blog post “Moonlighting at the Country Spring Fair”.
I myself have spent most of this week looking amongst the undergrowth to see what can be found, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely! On Monday I was back down to Alvecote Wood, an area of woodland I've mentioned previously that is local to myself and carefully managed in order to encourage a greater variety of species to live there. Here are some of the different critters that I spotted (though some were pretty quick so I’m not quite able to narrow them down to species, let alone get pictures!)
Copyright Ed Marshall. This banded centipede (Lithobius variegatus) was found on some rotten wood. They were very numerous and incredibly quick. Thankfully this one stayed still long enough to get a shot of it.
Copyright Ed Marshall. A parasitoid wasp belonging to the species Ichneumon suspiciosus. These wasps are unlike the common wasps that many people look upon with distain. These little critters are largely inactive at the moment, becoming more active from around April through to September, and they eventually go on to lay their eggs in the caterpillars of butterflies and moths. The larvae then eat their host from the inside out, it is this that gives this group of wasps the label of a parasitoid.
Copyright Ed Marshall. I saw several species of slugs, though I can't for the life of me identify different species (yet!), though I did spot these eggs underneath a piece of bark that had fallen to the floor.
Copyright Ed Marshall. There were plenty common woodlouse (Oniscus asellus) amongst the log piles found in both my garden and Alvecote Wood. Interestingly these are actually terrestrial crustaceans, and are not technically arthropods but isopods.
These were just some of the organisms that I was able to get some images of. In addition to these I also spotted springtails, leafhoppers, ground beetles, some tiny snails (the species of which I was uncertain), bumble bee's passing by, a black millipede, and the banded centipede's slightly plainer looking counterpart, the brown centipede. As I spent a great deal of my time looking through my macro lens, I found it to be a remarkably easy way to pass the time, as you can get so engrossed in the more intricate details of the creatures.
So there you have it, there is a vast abundance of wildlife that you can provide a home for right in your backgarden simply by leaving bits of garden waste or old pieces of wood lying around! The next time you are out and about either in your garden or around your local patch, I highly recommend you try and see what sort of things you can find in the undergrowth. Even if you’re not normally the sort of person who enjoys “creepy crawlies”, you may surprise yourself with how much you enjoy it!