We are apt to forget that some of the smallest creatures to inhabit our gardens are as useful to its biodiversity as birds and mammals. Yet we often overlook them; or kill them without realising that by so doing we destroy the very allies that exist as our ‘little garden helpers’. Insects are one of the most successful of living organisms, and roughly half of all species on earth are insects. They have six legs and millennia ago developed the ability to fly; even beetles – watch a ladybird open its wing cases and ‘fly away home’ – or hopefully into your veg plot or flower patch to devour greenfly.
As will hoverflies and lacewings, or rather their larvae. Please encourage them – plus honey bees and bumbles too, absolutely necessary for good pollination. Bees are such tireless workers; watch them on the broad bean flowers and marvel how as the flowers fade and shrivel, tiny bean pods appear. Most probably they will be bumbles, and usually solitary, breeding in an old mouse nest, or holes in the ground.
Equally beneficial in the garden are the creepy-crawlies: you may say, “ugh” when you overturn a stone and woodlice are congregating underneath, or centipedes scuttle out of the woodpile or damp undergrowth. Woodlice eat large amounts of dead leaves and spent organic matter, helping in the decomposition process, whilst centipedes are venomous, fanged predators which eat caterpillars, spiders and small snails. Don’t forget spiders (8-legged (Araneae) as they trap untold numbers of unwanted insects in their webs.
It is really easy to simulate living quarters for insects, spiders, bees and creepy crawlies, using the simplest of materials, often those that you would throw into a skip, thus increasing landfill, when you could put such debris to work for you. It’s especially important to provide overwintering habitats. Ensure there is a damp, weedy corner and pile up a few logs. Build a bug-tower, heaps of stones, bricks, hollow pipes; whatever you can lay your hands on. Take a look at Dobies ‘Ladybird Tower’ (good for lacewings, too) and their ‘Bug Box’. Visit the informative bugs & beasties website: garden clubs and schools may well like to book owner, Richard Fishbourne, for a talk or workshop.
So look after your army of garden assistants, create habitats for them, observe how they serve you, and think before using chemicals and sprays – for so often, beneficial creatures do the killing for you! For a organic helping hand in the garden check out this great product called Nemasys which targets a wide variety of pests. (Double click on any of the images for a closer view of the bug-hotel residences, and constituent components.)
Catch up with the latest Dobies offers on the web. The latest catalogue should by now be with you, and shortly their will be an online, page-turning version available – perfect to look at after a hard day’s work in the garden (or an evening after the office). And with the publication of the next e-newsletter, we will have passed the Summer Solstice and be planning ahead for summer celebrations, and autumn harvests.