How to Choose an Insect House
Insects are an essential part of the food chain. Some garden-friendly insects can also lend a hand to gardeners. Bees and butterflies help to pollinate our plants. Ladybirds and lacewings eat aphids. They’re an important part of any garden eco-system.
Well-kept gardens don’t always provide the damp, dark hiding places that bugs love to live in. But, even if you don’t want to place a pile of rotting wood or leaf litter in a corner of your garden, you can still provide a welcoming habitat for insects.
Many creepy crawlies will set up home in an insect house. These small and attractive garden additions allow you to look after your garden bugs without compromising on aesthetics. If you’d like to install an insect house in your garden, here are a few tips on what you should be looking for:
A Variety of Hidey Holes
Different insects look for different things in a home. Ladybirds like to hibernate in amongst dead wood. Lacewings look for a place with separated chambers. Solitary bees like hollow tubes that imitate the plant stems in which they usually lay their eggs. Your insect house should provide a variety of different sized holes, nooks and crannies if you’re to attract a wide selection of insects.
When choosing an insect house, you need to look for a sturdy structure that can stand up to the British weather. A roof needs to protect internal nooks and crannies from the rain – insect houses can be damp but not wet. You should also be able to secure your insect house to a wall or fence – you don’t want it to blow away in the wind.
Made from A Variety of Natural Materials
You’re much more likely to attract residents to your insect house if it’s made from natural materials. Bugs tend to look for homes that resemble their natural habitats. Wood and muted colours are a must. You can also look for insect houses that incorporate a number of different natural materials – pine cones, wood bark and straw are all appealing to different insect species.
Once you’ve chosen your insect house, be sure to place it in a cool, shady place that offers plenty of cover from predators. Fix the box firmly to a tree trunk, wall or post and wait for your garden creepy crawlies to take up residence. If it’s in the right place, your insect house should be full of life within a week or two.
How to Tell if You Have a Hedgehog in Your Garden
Hedgehogs are elusive creatures. Because they are nocturnal, you might not always know a hedgehog has taken up residence in your garden. If you suspect that a hedgehog might be wandering around your garden at night, look out for these tracks and signs:
Hedgehogs weigh around 1kg but they don’t leave footprints unless the ground is very soft. You could check muddy patches of the lawn and flowerbeds. Alternatively, set up your own footprint trap.
Prints are usually around 2.5cm long and 2.8cm wide. Both front and back feet have five toes but only four show up in tracks. Front footprints look like little handprints. Back footprints are longer and slimmer.
Hedgehog droppings are a sure fire sign you have hedgehogs in your garden. Their poo is usually quite dark in colour, due to their diet of beetles. And you may even be able to spot the exoskeletons of invertebrates packed within them. Droppings are usually found on their own and range in length from 15mm to 50mm.
Hedgehogs leave a trail as they move around. Look for areas of your garden where small tunnels have been forged through the undergrowth. If you suspect a hedgehog has set up home in your garden log pile or compost heap, you could place a few large leaves over the entrance in the evening and check to see if they’re still in place the following morning.
Hedgehogs make more noise than you might think. If you go outside at night time and listen carefully, you may be able to hear snuffling and shuffling in the undergrowth. Spring is an especially good time to hear hedgehogs in your garden. During this season males can get quite loud as they fight over females.
Install a Camera
These days, it’s possible to buy a wildlife camera that will help you to spot nocturnal garden visitors from the comfort and warmth of your own home. Night vision and motion activated cameras help you to easily see which animals are roaming your garden at night.
If you’d like to welcome hedgehogs into your garden, provide the best hedgehog food. Try to avoid these garden hedgehog hazards and provide a hedgehog thoroughfare, allowing hedgehogs to enter your garden from neighbouring properties. Then keep an eye and an ear out at night and early each morning to discover signs that hedgehogs are on the move.
Boxwild has two boxes for anyone who loves Hedgehogs
- Nikki Boxwild
- Tags: hedgehogs Looking after wildlife wildlife gardener
How to Create A Butterfly Garden
Butterflies are beautiful creatures. But they’re also an important part of the food chain. A range of birds, bats and insect-eating mammals all depend on butterflies and moths as a food source.
Why Create a Butterfly Garden?
Worryingly, three quarters of butterfly species across the UK are currently in decline. Habitats are being destroyed and weather patterns are changing, making their future uncertain. There’s never been a better time to welcome these amazing creatures into your garden.
How to Create a Butterfly Garden
Want to encourage butterflies to visit your garden? Here are a few key things you can do:
Create Butterfly Food
Butterflies like colourful, nectar-rich flowers. Clusters of short, tubular flowers or flat-topped blossoms provide a great landing and feeding spot for butterflies. Try to create a garden that flowers throughout the spring and summer, providing a constant food source for butterfly visitors.
Add Caterpillar Friendly Plants
You’re unlikely to see many butterflies in your garden unless you’re happy to welcome their offspring too. Caterpillars feed on nettles, thistles, grasses, holly and ivy – and female butterflies tend to lay their eggs on these plants. Include a few of them in your garden and let the grass grow a little longer in one patch of lawn.
Make Your Garden as Sunny as Possible
If your garden is very shady, you won’t attract many butterflies. Butterflies rely on the sun to raise their body temperature each morning, allowing them to fly and stay active. Try to create at least one sunny spot within your garden.
Put up a Butterfly Box
A butterfly box will provide a safe haven for your garden butterflies during cold and rainy summer days. Some butterflies also overwinter as adults and need a warm, dry place in which to hibernate. Place a butterfly box close to the shrubbery that would usually attract butterflies in need of shelter.
Pesticides can be extremely harmful to butterflies and other pollinating insects. Avoid using them near any flowering plants. And be careful not to introduce new plants into the garden unless you know that they are free from potential harmful chemicals. It may be worth growing your own from seed or seeking out an organic garden centre so you can be sure.
Creating food, shelter and warmth will make your garden very attractive to butterflies. Put in a little work and you’ll be able to admire your beautiful garden visitors throughout the spring and summer.
6 Best Garden-Friendly Insects
Gardeners often think of insects as unwelcome pests. When you spend lots of time caring for your plants, you don’t want them to be damaged by a hoard of ravenous bugs. But there are some six-legged creatures that help rather than hinder the growth of your garden.
Here are six of the best garden-friendly insects:
Hoverflies are often mistaken for wasps. They have a similar black and yellow colouring. But they don’t sting and they don’t have a bulgy abdomen and waspy waist. These flies feed on nectar and pollen so they help to pollinate your plants. Their larvae also feed on aphids and other garden pests.
Ground beetles love nothing better than feasting on some of our most troublesome garden pests – slugs and snails. And they like gardens where shady hidey holes are available during the day. So create a log or leaf pile or even a bug hotel to attract these helpful insects.
Parasitic wasps (which are all non-stinging) lay their eggs on or in other insects. The egg hatches and then eats the host alive before turning into an adult wasp. This is bad news for the caterpillars, ants and aphids that act as a host. But good news for your garden.
Butterflies and Moths
Butterfly and moth larvae will eat your plants. However, by growing a patch of long grass or giving over an ivy or holly plant to caterpillars, you can enjoy all of the benefits their parents bring to your garden. Butterflies and moths are excellent pollinators, helping your plants to reproduce year in, year out. A butterfly box gives them much-needed shelter on cold and rainy days.
Ladybirds are carnivorous. They feed on aphids and on red spider mites. A ladybird will lay its eggs in aphid colonies so its offspring have a ready source of food. When they hatch a single ladybird larvae can eat up to 5,000 aphids.
Lacewings are beautiful creatures. They have a small green body and huge, lace-like wings. Both adults and their larvae love to eat aphids and mites. A single lacewing larvae can eat up to 500 greenfly in the two weeks it takes to develop. Put up a lacewing box (that will also double as a ladybird box) to help these insects survive the winter.
Not all insects are a gardener’s enemy. Even the aphids we try so hard to get rid of provide a food source for the good bugs. And if you like the idea of cultivating a wildlife garden, you need to provide tasty treats for creatures at every stage of the food chain.
Wildlife Gardener - The Best Plants for a Wildlife Garden
Not all plants are equal if you want to create a wildlife friendly garden. The plants you choose to include in your borders and pots can have a big impact on the numbers and varieties of wildlife species that choose to pay your garden a visit.
Here are some of the top plants for gardeners to use to create a great Wildlife Garden
If wildlife rather than aesthetics is your priority, choose sunflower varieties with fewer petals and a bigger centre. These provide the optimum pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. Once the flower has faded, its seeds will attract birds such as blackbirds, finches, jays and even some species of woodpeckers.
A hedge of hawthorn provides food and shelter for wildlife all year round. The plant usually flowers in May and becomes a feast for insects. In the autumn red berries appear. These are a favourite of blackbirds, thrushes, greenfinches and chaffinches, to name but a few. And in the winter, small mammals, birds and insects can roost and nest in the thick cover a hawthorn plant provides.
The highly scented honeysuckle flowers from June to September and bears berries in the late summer and autumn. It’s a climbing plant that needs support. However, once established it will provide nectar for bees, butterflies and moths (including the impressive hummingbird hawk moth) and food for bullfinches, thrushes and warblers.
Ivy is another climbing plant. Insects, including hoverflies, bumblebees, red admirals and peacock butterflies, use ivy to fill up on nectar before hibernation. Ivy also has berries throughout winter, attracting blackbirds and thrushes when many other berries have already been and gone.
Berberis is a thorny plant. There are a number of evergreen varieties available. These will provide safe nesting and roosting sites for smaller birds. Flowers provide nectar for moths and butterflies, whilst leaves provide shelter for caterpillars. The plant’s berries, seen in autumn and winter, also provide a great food source for birds.
Early flowering plants are a must for any garden. Buff tailed bumble bee queens can emerge from their nests as early as January if the Celsius heads into double figures. These bees need nectar, something that the crocus and other early flowering plants can provide.
A clear favourite for bees which mean polination! Lavender not only smells delicious but does wonders for the wildlife population in your garden.
Being a wildlife gardener means providing food and habitats for you garden visitors all year round. Clever planting will certainly stand you in good stead. You can then create your own additional habitats and provide extra food to make your garden a truly welcoming haven for all kinds of wildlife species. Check out our Wildlife Gift Boxes for inspiration, an ideal for a gardener interested in wildlife.
- Nikki Boxwild
- Tags: wildlife gardener