How to help hibernating creatures
Look out for creatures hibernating in your garden and take care not to disturb them
After the clocks go back, our gardens are full of leaves and there’s a lingering mist hanging over the lawn at first light. It’s autumn. Apart from birds, which we might notice more now as the shorter days leave less time for them on our feeders, everything else is tucked away. Most animals go into hibernation in autumn. It’s the most efficient way of surviving winter. Rather than searching for food (of which there’s very little), they shut down and sit it out. Those hibernating in your garden right now include hedgehogs, amphibians, reptiles and insects – particularly bumblebees, butterflies and wasps. Some insects hibernate as adults, such as peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies. Others hibernate as larvae or pupae. Whatever the species, it has evolved its own way to survive winter. You usually won’t be able to see them but that’s the point – it’s safer for them to stay hidden. They might have buried themselves deep in the soil or your compost bin, snuggled into ornamental grass or folded their wings beneath a piece of bark or shed roof – and we must be careful not to disturb them. True hibernation involves slowing of the heart rate and breathing, and dropping body temperature, but most enter a state of ‘torpor’, where body temperature falls only slightly. They wake periodically and bring their body temperature back to normal, before returning to sleep. It’s not fully understood why they do this, but it may explain hedgehog or bat sightings in winter.
Small tortoisehell butterflies hibernate as adults