How you can help our wonderous wildlife

Although urban areas are often considered ‘unnatural’ places, lots of wildlife can thrive in the urban jungle. Scientific studies have shown many species of pollinators, particularly bees, now survive better in urban areas than they do on farmland. This is because urban gardens, parks and allotments all provide a huge diversity of flowering plants, which help support many individual insects, as well as many different species of pollinator.

In return, urban gardens and their owners rely heavily on insects like bees, butterflies, wasps and hoverflies to pollinate our trees and home-grown fruits and vegetables. Did you know 88 percent of flowering plants depend on pollinating insects?

Whether you have a garden, a patio or just a balcony, it is easy to grow flowers in an urban space. Pots on windowsills, hanging baskets and flower beds will all provide opportunities to attract insects, so long as the plants are suitable. Read my top ten tips for encouraging insects below:

1. Familiarise yourself with what insects are capable of pollinating plants. Although not as conventionally attractive as bees and butterflies, moths, flies, and even wasps are all valuable pollinators and should also be encouraged to the garden.

2. Plant a large variety of flowering plants - mostly native species but with a selection of exotics to extend the flowering season and provide a source of food for insects with highly specific diets.

3. Allow plants in your lawn to flower by mowing it less frequently. Clovers and dandelions might be considered weeds, but both produce high volumes of pollen and nectar, and are attractive to many pollinating insects.

4. Plant a wildflower ‘meadow’ in an area of your garden where the plants can grow long. The flowers will provide a source of food and the long stems provide shelter.

5. Plant native plants. The pollinators that live in the UK have evolved alongside British plants, and many exotic flowers are too deep for bee and butterfly tongues to reach the nectar. English varieties of cornflowers, lavender, rosemary and bluebells are all attractive garden plants that insects love.

6. If you’d like to attract butterflies to your garden you need to plant plants for caterpillars to feed on too. Stinging nettle, Cock’s-foot, Cuckooflower and Hedge Mustard are all wild plants used by multiple caterpillar species.

7. Flowering shrubs and trees are just as important as smaller plants. Where possible, look for larger plants that flower and produce large fruits, like apples, pears, raspberries and blackberries.

8. Ditch the pesticides and herbicides. The use of weed killers will negatively impact butterflies and bees, by reducing the variety of plants available in the garden.

9. Provide shelter by building a bee or bug hotel. We have created instructions on how to build one of your own.

10. Alternatively, all insects need natural resting spaces. Planting shrubs and climbing plants will provide space where bees can survive over winter and all pollinators can rest during summer.

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