By Faye Arcaro
How would you like to enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine in the garden while watching the birds splash about in a bird bath or watch a sneaky lizard snatch a moth from the air. Imagine butterflies flitting about the buddleias and even smaller visions of a mantid as it grasps the tiny wasp that you were trying to photograph.
You can create a haven for our native wildlife in just a few simple steps. The recipe for success comes from a few basics, you know that adage “build it and they will come” well there could be nothing closer to the truth. Who would we want in our garden and most of all why would we want them there?
My favourites are the birds and the butterflies, but I am a little obsessed with native bees and other small insects, I love the diversity of the reptiles too. Adding water to the garden is a huge help and it will encourage birds, butterflies, bees, reptiles, frogs and other insects. Remember they are all part of the food chain and “all” play a vital role in our ecosystem. Building biodiversity is fun and educational and it makes every day an adventure. Higher levels of diversity include some interesting parasites that use other insects to complete their life cycle like the iridescent emerald cuckoo wasp.
Flowers are extremely important to our pollinators and it can be as easy as buying a packet of seeds to get started. One of my top favourites is the Duranta Geisha girl as it is a magnet to my blue banded bees, butterflies and ladybirds.
I don’t know that everyone gets as excited as me when they see aphids, but the best news is that these are food and hosts for at least 5 beneficial insects, so aphids only last here about 3 days. The good bugs that come because of them include our old favourites the ladybird, hoverflies, parasitic wasps, lacewings, flower spiders and praying mantids not to mention blue fairy wrens. I’m guessing you want the ladybirds and praying mantis, so bee aware and don’t spray the aphids, just monitor the plants, have patience and observe what happens.
I plant white alyssum beneath my roses, it makes a lovely border that ties the garden together, the white luminates at night time and the lacewing larvae love to live there. The night flying moths come in for it which means we have food for our frogs, so you start to see that the method for a living garden sanctuary is more of a recipe with the ingredients that meet the needs of our visitors. Food, water and shelter, a bit like us really. Forget the pesticides, bee natural, leave some bare areas as well as some wild spaces.
Our native reed bees make their nests in hollow stems so think about that when the annuals are dying back and don’t worry about being too tidy. A tree trunk can provide a habitat for a plethora of wildlife as well as fungi through the wetter months. Many insects shelter and over winter in the leaf litter and the soil underneath so put up a “do not disturb” sign in one area. 70% of our native bees make their nest in sand, so leave an area free of mulch.
Native insects love native plants. Have something flowering all year round. Avoid pesticides. Don’t be too tidy. Just add water. You can even make your own bee hotel and for more information check out Botanic Obsession on Facebook. Many living things rely on at least something else for their survival, many of them rely on us, so please think about your impact on the natural environment so that our future generations can also experience the joy.