Erin McDaid, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust: Gardeners can take action for nature by helping bring back beetles
While ‘wildlife gardening’ might at one time have been considered a quirky pastime for the committed few willing to give over their plots to nature or perhaps even viewed as a term used to excuse an untidy plot, the value of gardens in terms of supplementing and in some cases replacing more traditional wildlife habitats is now far better understood.
Millions of people now get real pleasure from observing and connecting with nature in their garden, whether by putting out food for species such as birds or hedgehogs or through the plants they choose to grow.
If it were not for gardens, species such as hedgehogs and the common frog would be even fewer in number, but you don’t have to give over your garden entirely to wildlife to be able to do your bit.
There are simple steps you can take to make your garden more wildlife-friendly and if you wish you can choose to focus on particular types of wildlife.
Many people plant trees to provide food, shelter and nesting opportunities for birds, others cut holes in the bottom of their fences to help hedgehogs move from garden to garden, and planting for bees has become something of an hobby in itself.
However, I think I can safely say that few people if any set out to attract beetles.
Like worms, beetles are unsung heroes of the wildlife gardening world. Like worms, a healthy population of beetles is vital for a healthy garden, but unlike worms, many beetles are spectacularly colourful and endlessly fascinating to observe.
Each year, The Wildlife Trusts team up with the Royal Horticultural Society to highlight a different aspect of garden wildlife with the aim of encouraging people to do more for nature on their patch.
I’m delighted that this year’s focus is beetles.
Together, we are calling on gardeners to create habitats for these important, but often overlooked, insects which is a wonderful way to encourage a natural balance and boost the wildlife value of your plot.
The UK has more than 4,000 beetle species but many are under threat from habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change.
Despite these pressures you might wonder why we would welcome them in.
A handful might be guilty of eating plants, but many are helpful predators, pollinators and decomposers — helping to control pests, feed your soil and to feed larger garden visitors such as the birds and hedgehogs many people work so hard to attract.
Our new campaign was launched last week and we have produced a great new guide, which includes ideas for making your garden more beetle-friendly — such as building a beetle bank to add a mix of shady spots and shelter; creating a dead hedge from branches and twigs where beetles can revel as the wood rots down, or creating a log or rock pile to provide crevices, nooks and crannies where beetles can beetle about.
Simple steps, such as boosting the range of pollen-rich flowers and not being too eager to cut back dead plant stems in the autumn and early winter, will also give beetles a boost.
It is not just cute and fluffy creatures that deserve a fighting chance in our gardens and if we don’t support insects, including beetles, then the cute and fluffy wildlife that are often the focus of people’s concern will be in even more trouble than they are today.
If, like me, you took pleasure from the wildlife in your garden during lockdown last year then now is an ideal time to put something back.
The downloadable Bring Back Our Beetles guide and more information about the campaign can be found on the Wild About Gardens website at www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk