16 April 2019 By Wyevale Garden Centres
Nicky Roeber is the Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres. Here, he explains how to choose plants that will attract insects to your garden and help them thrive.
75% of crop plants require pollination by insects and animals, according to Countryside. But 40% of insect species are in decline and a third are now endangered, with experts warning that we risk losing most varieties within the next 100 years (Science Direct). To stop this from happening, it's important that we all do our bit to provide them with spaces where they can live and thrive.
There are a number of steps you can take to attract insects to your garden and help them to flourish, and I'm going to talk you through some of those here.
You'll want to plant flowers that are going to provide insects like butterflies and bees with plenty of pollen and nectar. For this, it's best to stay away from highly-bred cultivars that have particularly large or double flowers, as these tend to contain little to no pollen.
It's also important to think about how you're going to provide your garden's insects with food for as much of the year as possible. To do this, you'll want to choose a range of flowers that will bloom at different times of the year. You can start with Lungwort in the springtime, lavender and hawthorn in the summer months, honeysuckle in autumn, and mahonia or ivy during the winter. This will help to ensure your garden acts as a food source for insects all year round.
If you would like more information about which flowers will provide pollinators with all of the pollen and nectar they need, the Royal Horticultural Society has an in-depth guide that will be sure to provide you with more inspiration.
In order to hide from predators, shield themselves from the elements, and rear their young in a safe environment, pollinators need shelter. And there are a number of ways in which you can provide them with this.
It's a good idea to grow a range of trees, shrubs, and climbers, as this will help to ensure there's enough space for everyone. Each variety of insect will also be able to choose which type of shelter they're most comfortable with.
Plants that offer shelter can serve as a great source of food for pollinators too, as they'll often grow their own varieties of flowers and fruits, so it's worth bearing this in mind.
Just like all wildlife, insects need water and will be drawn to areas where they can quench their thirst — especially when it's warm.
Ponds and bird baths can be rife with predators, as well as posing a drowning risk, so it's usually best to provide shallow puddles for insects to drink from. Many species, such as butterflies, actually drink from wet soil in a behaviour known as "mud-puddling". A dripping outdoor tap or garden hose, or even a sprinkler system, can do the trick.
Alternatively, try filling a small saucer or bowl with water, then adding pebbles that insects can rest on while drinking. Just make sure to refill regularly, as standing water can attract unwanted pests such as mosquitoes.
If you're lucky enough to have your own garden, it's well worth taking some steps to encourage insects into your garden, and then provide them with what they need to thrive there. Pollinators play a very important role in how we get our food, and it's only right that we give back to help this continue.