British wildlife in the UK is on the decline, this is due to various reasons such as climate change and lack of natural resources due to human developments. Fortunately, we can create mini wildlife havens in our gardens, with a few small changes we can help the struggling wildlife around us.
- Bees and butterflies
Bees pollinate up to two-thirds of the World’s plants, however numbers are in rapid decline for a number of reasons such as pesticides, global warming and lack of nectar rich plants. There are over 270 species of bee in the UK many of them are endangered. There are different ways we can help the bees, and surprisingly we do not need massive gardens to do so! Planting some nectar rich plants in the garden (or in containers). Try to plant mostly single flower plants as double flowers are often too elaborate, many new hybrids are without male and female parts, or lacking in nectar and pollen, so bees and butterflies often ignore them.
Some nectar rich flowers include: lavender, alliums, buddleia, catmint, foxgloves, honeysuckle, penstemons, snapdragons, bluebell, bugle, crab apple, daffodil, flowering cherry, currant, forget-me-nots, hawthorn, pulmonaria, rhododendron, rosemary, thrift and viburnum, aquilegia, astilbe, campanula, comfrey, delphinium, fennel, hardy geranium, potentilla, stachys, teasel, thyme, verbascum, angelica, aster, cardoon, cornflower, dahlia (single-flowered), eryngium, fuchsia, globe thistle, heather, ivy, scabious, sedum, verbena bonariensis…. To name a few.
Setting up some “bee hotels” around the garden, will aid numbers due to habitat loss. These can be fixed to fences or “bee pots” can be put on the ground, with a small amount of insulating material, i.e hay.
Take a bee keeping course and keep a hive!
To help other insects provide a small space in the garden with some decaying logs, or other “bug hotels” which can be purchased offline.
Due to vast urbanisation hedgehog numbers are in vast decline and are now a rarity in many British gardens, providing a “hedgehog gap highway” in fencing can help them on their quest for food. Hedgehogs mainly feed on slugs, snails, worms and other insects, unfortunately many gardeners use pesticides or slug pellets which in turn poison hedgehogs. Encouraging hedgehogs into your garden is a natural slug control 😊 Providing an area for them to nest and hibernate will also help numbers. Before cutting long grass or lighting a bonfire, please check for sleeping hedgehogs, many are lost due to strimmer injuries, or being burnt.
Many people do not know that hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so please do not leave milk outside for them to drink, a bowl of water will not only hydrate them but keep them from getting sick.
- Small birds
The numbers of small native birds in the UK have been rapidly in decline over the years. Plant trees which produce small fruits later in the seasons.
Providing a small bird feeder with various seeds, fat balls and mealworms, will help attract them to the garden and in turn they will help keep pest insects at bay. Providing food in a caged feeder can help stop squirrels and larger birds consuming all the feed. A small tray underneath the feed can help stop it falling to the ground, which could attract rats and mice. Please remember to provide fresh drinking water through out the year, as well as a small bird bath. Regularly clean these areas to help control bacteria build up, and diseases.
If you start providing food and water for small birds, please continue to do so as they will develop a routine, and will rely on your support, and may build nesting sites near the area. Do not become too discouraged if you notice the birds are not coming to your feeders at first, chances are they will be assessing the area for any dangers, which could take them a few days to weeks, but eventually you will notice them at the feed.
If you have other animals after brushing, place their fur on washing lines or in branches of trees, and small birds will take it to insulate their nests. Providing nesting boxes for small birds on the sides of garages, trees or the side of your house (well out of the way of curious felines), will greatly aid numbers due to habitat loss.
- Ladybirds and other insects
Ladybirds are in major decline at the moment, they are a very useful insect to have in the garden, they will eat aphids (therefore, a natural pest control! Just remove ants by hand as they will “farm” aphids, due to drinking the sap from stems that aphids feed on), provide logs and “bug hotels” for them to nest in. Many other insects will benefit from rotting logs in the garden.
- Frogs, newts and frogs
Having a pond in the garden is very useful for introducing wildlife into the garden! A pond will also attract dragonflies and other insects. Just ensure your pond is full of oxygenating plants will not only help keep it clear, and reduce algae but could help wildlife thrive. Always provide a shallow entry and exit point, to aid any animals that manage to fall in (such as hedgehogs and other small animals)! Having a shallow area will attract small birds, and it’s always a delight to see them having a bath 😊
Ducks: it’s always a fun day out, but feeding ducks bread is controversial and can be very bad for them and the surrounding environment! It has low nutritional value…not only does uneaten bread attract vermin and other predators, it encourages an overgrow of harmful algae blooms and to the growth of cyanobacteria. Due to bread growing mould, and being consumed it can slowly poison them, there are some experts who say it also causes bones, and feathers to grow too quickly causing flying issues. If you want to feed the ducks lettuce, cabbage, kale and pea shoots are a much better and healthier option. 😊
- Mother and ducklings: if you happen to find them wondering in your path, please do not try to pick up the ducklings as mum will often get frightened and fly off. She will often come back if the ducklings are not around humans.
Small changes to any garden (no matter how big or small!) will help attract a wide range of wildlife, just remember provide the facilities and the wildlife will come! 😉
Some useful websites: