Making room for winter bugs
WHILE I will continue to beat the drum for feeding birds throughout autumn, winter and into the breeding season in spring, we also need to keep an eye on the little fellows too.
Bugs need our help even if it’s just to make themselves available for birds and mammals as food.
Protecting our insects can be a major undertaking, like a bug mansion, or more simple ideas, like where you throw your garden waste.
At its most basic, wildlife gardening can create winter shelters for insects to survive by simply leaving some of your lawn unmown or by creating leaf piles in part of your garden.
As you are tidying your autumn garden look at some of the plants you are chopping down. Verbena, lovage and borage all have hollow stems, which are perfect winter haunts for bugs. Bamboo canes are great for solitary bees. You can either leave small stems standing in the garden or lay the cut stems flat on the soil.
I tend to cut down a lot of taller plants and then lay them on top of the soil. This protects the soil and plants below from the worst of winter, keeps cats off the soil and provides a habitat for hibernating insects and mammals. Hollow plants are an added bonus.
I’m not saying that spiders and flies are totally safe in these areas as I often see robins and sparrows probing these larders of docile insects and arachnids.
You can, of course, create your own insect houses using bamboo canes. I had a lovely day out at Accrington in summer where volunteer Jerry Sorfleet and I invited children to make basic insect houses – more than 80 joined in the fun.
However it now means that insects will find a home in those 80 gardens, pollinating plants and offering a food source for larger creatures.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust offers brilliant advice on its website on building insect mansions with habitats like dead wood for stag beetles and woodlice and straw and hay to burrow into.
Dry leaves help to mimic the litter on forest floors. Then there are the tubes for bees and ladybirds.
In larger mansions you can incorporate hedgehog houses and decking providing nice gaps for frogs and toads, all great to keep pests at bay in your garden.
We are lucky to have stone walls which provide shelter for insects and are visited by a couple of wonderful wrens looking for food throughout the years.
If you have room you can build your own drystone wall but don’t make it too big in case of accidents. You don’t want to find the cat squashed.
Visit www.cheshire wildlifetrust.org.uk/ how-you-can-help/ wildlife-friendly -gardening-scheme to find a leaflet on creating your own bug mansion.
To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, text WILD09 with the amount you want to donate to 70070. It manages about 40 nature reserves and 20 local nature reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow. The trust has 26,000 members, and more than 1,200 volunteers. To become a member go to the website at www. lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust. org.uk.
●● A bug hotel made from wooden pallets, logs and leaves at Brockholes nature reserve