With the current surge in interest in wildflower gardens, I was interested to read about a research project in the latest edition of RHS magazine The Garden called “Plants for Bugs”. The study is comparing the value of native and non-native plants to garden invertebrates. Native plants are those that occur naturally in Britain such as those found in hedgerows, meadows and woodland.
There are an estimated 16 million domestic gardens in the UK and on average 70% of the plants in our gardens are non-native. In year two of the field trial a 30-40% increase in the numbers and species of invertebrates was recorded, as the vegetation matured. Sampling and identifying the insects is a major undertaking and the results will be published when the trial is complete.
Insects are a very important indicator of biodiversity. Many of the flower-visiting insects act as pollinators and others such as ladybirds and parasitic wasps act as predators. We can all encourage invertebrates in our gardens. Planting climbers to grow up fences and walls creates the ideal habitat for spiders and other insects. Bug hotels are another idea and provide useful shelter for invertebrates. Lots of inspiration for Creepy Crawly Towers, Snug as a Bug Houses and other such structures can be found online They make a fun activity for children so would be a great idea for the Easter holidays.
Deborah Alexander, Conservation Assistant