Which type of wildlife can improve your garden?
The next time you think about trying to chase insects from your garden, consider how thy might actually benefit your outdoor space! From bees, which are important pollinators of various plants and fruiting trees, to ladybirds, which feast on aphids; you may be surprised by what certain critters can do to improve the health and aesthetic of your back yard…
Although we often think most insects are annoying, some serve a good purpose for our outdoor spaces and can even protect your flowering plants from infestations.
Almost all gardeners agree that aphids are pests — and for good reason. The small insects, also known as the greenfly and blackfly, suck saps from plants and excrete it as honeydew.
This sticky substance then falls on the lower leaves of the plant which can be harmful to its growth. Photosynthesis becomes inhibited and the plant becomes deprived of energy. In extreme aphid attacks, the insects can fully smother the plant — causing it to become stunted and weak before dying.
But to the rescue is the helpful ladybird, which has long been a favourite of keen gardeners. It is the larvae from these bugs that are predators of soft-bodied insects such as aphids. Encourage ladybirds to visit your garden by providing them with a water source. Fill saucers with pebbles and water, this allows the insect to take a drink without falling in and drowning.
Also, damsel bugs are winged insects that can also play a beneficial role in your garden. They feed on aphids, small caterpillars and other irritating small creatures — helping your crops thrive!
The pros of bees and butterflies
Not only beautiful to look at, butterflies can also be a handy addition to your back yard. Along with the trusty bee, they are natural pollinators, which means that they help spread your flowers around the garden and encourage growth.
But how do you get bees and butterflies into your garden? By using colour. Plant flowers that feature bright petals, as bees are attracted to these plants. They source their energy from sugar-filled nectar and the pollen provides bees with protein and fat.
Planting in clusters will also boost your chances of attracting bees and butterflies. Also, plant flowers that bloom at different times of year to encourage your flying friends to come to your garden.
The handy hedgehog
If gardeners were to make a list of most unwanted critters, we’re sure that slugs and snails will feature quite highly. Mainly because they leave holes in leaves and feast on your fresh green shoots!
One of the most efficient ways to lower the number of snails and slugs in your green space is to introduce a hedgehog. They are a gardener’s best friend, as they feed on snail, slugs and other insects. To encourage hedgehogs into the garden, leave food out for them. This could be minced meat or tinned dog and cat food. Although people think that the creatures enjoy drinking milk, you shouldn’t leave this out for hedgehogs. It can upset their stomach and lead them to become dehydrated. You can also leave areas of the garden to grow wild with piles of leaves and overgrown grass to encourage hedgehogs to set up camp.
If you have a large enough garden, you can also use the skills of ducks and chickens to consume a few pesky insects. However, don’t expect your neat rows of fruit and vegetables to stay that way!