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Beetles – the unsung heroes of the garden

Wild About Gardens, the annual garden wildlife campaign set up by The Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), makes a welcome return this week with beetles the theme for 2021.

These important but often overlooked insects play a vital role in keeping our gardens healthy, and this year the two charities are calling on gardeners to create beetle habitats, which will be recorded on an interactive map.

Providing a patch for beetles, including ladybirds, ground beetles and rose chafers, is a great way to encourage balance in the garden and boost biodiversity – especially with many species under threat from habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change.

The UK has more than 4,000 beetle species and, although a handful may eat plants, many are predators, pollinators and decomposers, feeding both the soil and larger garden visitors such as birds and hedgehogs.

Ladybirds help gardeners by eating aphids while some ground beetles feed on vine weevil grubs, and water beetles keep mosquito larvae under control in ponds. Even the much-maligned lily beetle provides food for three parasitoid wasps.

Green tiger beetle (Chris Lawrence)

If you want to get involved, this year’s ‘Bring back our beetles’ guide features lots of family-friendly ideas for making your garden more beetle-friendly, including:

  • Build a beetle bank – Adding a mound of soil, particularly in flat gardens, adds both shady and sunny habitat and provides shelter for lots of invertebrates
  • Make a dead hedge – Structured piles of branches and twigs can be used to divide up an area of the garden and provide a residence for beetles as they rot away
  • Create a beetle bucket – perfect for small gardens, filling a bucket with rotting wood and leaves makes a home for all sorts of beetles and other insects
  • Building log and rock piles, making sure you have plenty of pollen-rich flowers and not cutting back dead plant stems until late winter are also good ways to attract beetles and other wildlife.
How to Make a Beetle Bucket (Wildlife Trusts)

How to Make a Beetle Bucket (Wildlife Trusts)

“Beetles are really cool”, says Helen Bostock, Senior Horticultural Advisor at the RHS.

“They come in so many shapes, sizes and colours and play lots of different roles in garden life – nibblers, pest controllers, pollinators, recyclers, and even undertakers. Like so much of our wildlife, they are under threat so we hope by shining a spotlight on them people will really start to appreciate and encourage beetles in their gardens.”

Further information about the Wild About Gardens campaign – including interactive map and downloadable guide – can be found at www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk

Lesser stag beetle (RHS - Andrew Halstead)

Lesser stag beetle (RHS – Andrew Halstead)

Main image: Cardinal beetle (Penny Frith)

Pocket Eyewitness: Insects

Enter a world of insects in this encyclopedia of more than 200 minibeasts.

With amazing stats, close-up photographs, and genius gem facts, Pocket Eyewitness: Insects will let you see their true sizes, discover where and how they live and find out which deadly insects to watch out for.

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National Trust: Beetles, Butterflies and other Minibeasts

The fourth in a glorious sticker book series created for the National Trust, this book is packed with facts about weird and wonderful minibeasts and their homes. With four pages of wildlife stickers, you can stick spiders into their webs, fill the bug hotel with woodlice, add a dragonfly zipping across a pond, and much, much more. From moths to millipedes, this is an excellent introduction to all types of creepy-crawlies for the very young.

£4.49

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