Bees, flies, mosquitoes, ants, midges, wasps and beetles are not generally considered to be the guests of choice when eating al fresco on a nice sunny day. Yet without them, our dinner plates would be bland and desolate. These “bugs” are a key element of our natural ecosystem and help maintain a large part of our food supply by pollinating 80% of all plant species in Europe, including most fruits, many vegetables and some biofuel crops.
Apples, broccoli, coffee, tomatoes, carrots, avocados, almonds, cocoa, blueberries and cucumber are just some of the crops that would not survive without pollinators. Watching “Kew On A Plate” on the BBC, I was astonished to see that proper pollination is the key to a perfectly shaped strawberry. Gardeners in Kew Garden are now working with scientists to train bees to pollinate the quintessential British fruit.
For the past two years Whole Foods Market has run an awareness campaign, removing all produce and dairy that are dependent on pollinators in its Gilman store in Berkeley, California. As you can see from the pictures below, without them our lunch options become strikingly limited.
Pollination happens typically by accident when insects move from flower to flower feasting on nectar. While feeding, these insects are covered with pollen which they then transfer to other flowers. These fertilised flowers will in turn produce fruits and seeds.
For the past few years, through disease, pesticide use, intensive farming and loss of habitat, pollinator numbers have been declining. A number of high profile campaigns have highlighted the plight of bees yet, under pressure from chemicals giants Bayer & Sygenta, the current ban on neonicotinoids is under review. (See petition to “Keep the ban on bee-killing pesticides” here).
Besides supporting actions to protect pollinators, there are a number of helpful things you can do in your own back garden by providing food & shelter to bugs (no matter how small or big).
Avoid using chemicals
Using little to no chemicals in your garden will help preserve biodiversity. The RSPB has a list of chemical-free pest control options while the RHS offers advice here on natural weed control. This Fiskars weed puller is working wonders in our garden while I pour boiling water (mixed with salt) to clear out weeds from the patio and driveway.
Encouraging beneficial insects is the best natural pest control for your garden. A Bug Hotel gives insects an attractive place to stay. Wiggly Worms has a nice selection. If you prefer making your own, check this pinterest board for some great ideas.
You may have noticed that wild flower patches are becoming more and more prominent in public parks or gardens. This is something you can easily create at home either in your flower borders or by dedicating a “wild patch” area. Native wild flowers are ideally suited to the climate. Planting native wild flowers will ensure that a diversity of food is available for the pollinators visiting your garden.
Wiggly Wigglers has kindly offered a selection of 12 native wild flower pots to one lucky reader. Click here to enter the competition.