• Sofias Country Gardens

Insect friendly gardens


Eurasian bee beetle (Trichius fasciatus)

I doubt there are many gardeners out there who have not heard about the impending insect apocalypse. It is one of the big topics of our times, and yet I'm not sure if people really understand what a crisis it is as insects disappear. Most gardeners do understand that if there are no pollinators in the garden, a lot of the crops we grow will disappear. Even garden centres have caught on to this, and most places now have sections dedicated to bee friendly plant mixes. It is good business no doubt, but one that I actually condone as this very worth while marketing strategy makes it easier for the consumer to make bee healthy choices. In the UK alone, gardens are estimated to cover some 433,000 hectares which could go a fair way to aiding insect populations if properly attuned to their needs. Sadly, there is no such statistics for what proportion of land is used for gardens in most other countries. But imagine if there were - and gardeners united in creating little habitats for insects!

Pollinators do best with simple flowers that have a higher pollen production than the fancy varieties.
Lady bird larvae are super useful as they eat aphids
There will be no apples without bees pollinating the flowers

One of the problems is that not all insects are pretty or sweet like the butterflies that adorn our flowers, and these ugly annoying creatures are often discriminated against. The little aphids that feed our important ladybird and hoverfly communities are often sprayed with insecticides, and flies are regarded with disdain. Yet without flies we wouldn't have our beautiful songbirds! Even native snail and slugs have their uses - they feed amphibians and hedgehogs and decompose organic material.

Sadly the use of pesticides and insecticides is still rife. While DDT was prohibited decades ago, the use of the synthetic pesticide neonicotinoid - one of the main man made bee-killers which has been banned in Europe - is still widely encouraged in developing countries with lax environmental laws. Neonicotinoids impair the immune systems of bees, damage their fertility and disrupt their sophisticated navigational abilities, leading to systematic bee community collapse.

So the one thing any gardener can do immediately to make their garden insect friendly, is simply to go pesticide free. Ditch the chemicals, and you are already a bee hero! Give wildlife a chance to survive!

Most people love butterflies but discriminate against caterpillars.
Silver washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia f. valencia) and a common fly (to the right)
Buff-tip larvae (Phalera bucephala)

One of the easiest ways to create wildlife friendly gardens is to allow for patches of weeds to flourish in the gardens. Weeds are nothing but native plants growing in the wrong places. By designating spots in your gardens where these plants are allowed to grow, you automatically create little wildlife habitats. It can take the form of a part of the lawn where grass is allowed to grow tall, where you don't weed out the weeds but let them coexist with more decorative flowers, or an area to the back of the garden where you let nature run wild.

One way of looking at it is that you are practicing the art of mindfulness, where you are mindful of nature instead of trying to control it. So much of life is a desperate struggle to control what happens in our daily existence that it can actually be relaxing to purposefully let go and just be present. You might even be positively surprised by the health benefits that come with relaxing and being aware of the larger world around us. There are a multitude of studies that have shown how beneficial it is to be immersed in nature, and a spot of wildlife gardening may be just as good for your stress levels as slogging it out at the gym but infinitely more pleasurable. So please, just try it out and see. Perhaps the next time you see a butterfly flutter by you will feel pleased that it just might have come from your little part of this incredibly fragile world we live in and take for granted.

Stinging nettles feed a lot of butterfly larvae including Small tortoiseshell and Red admiral
Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) feeds a lot of butterflies and beneficial insects such s hoverflies
Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) on thistles.



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