Care for wild creatures this Valentine’s Day
Gardeners are urged to give love a helping hand this Valentine’s Day, by The Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).
By providing shelter, food, and wildlife corridors, gardeners can offer space for wild species to come together, and play a vital role for the next generation of UK garden wildlife.
Morag Shuaib, The Wildlife Trusts’ Big Wildlife Garden Awards Project Manager, said: “As mating season approaches, species from blue tits to butterflies are about to get busy building nests and laying eggs.
“With many a species looking to hook up and settle down, this is a great time of year to offer some hospitality and be in with a chance of winning The Big Wildlife Garden Competition, which closes on 20 May 2012.”
Helen Bostock, an RHS wildlife expert, said: “With just a few changes everyone can make their gardens wildlife friendly. Contrary to what some people think you don’t have to let your garden grow wild. Feeding birds, careful placement of nesting boxes and planting pollinator friendly plants are easy, straight-forward things to do that make an enormous difference.”
Here, The Wildlife Trusts and the RHS provide some tips for keen and caring wildlife landlords to help create the perfect love nests:
It’s estimated that each year around two million birds fledge from nest boxes. There’s an array of shapes and sizes to choose from, depending on the species you are providing for. To make a nest box extra appealing to couples looking to start a family, place it out of reach of predators. By leaving untidy patches in the garden, and growing a variety of native species, attract in the insects and grubs which will provide valuable food for chicks.
With males and females of all kinds of species ready to seek each other out, the fewer obstacles the better! In early spring, amphibians are heading to spawning ponds, and may need to pass through gardens to get there. Hedgehogs are on the move looking for a mate too. Creating a hole in the garden fence to pass through will help them make the date.
Fit for a queen
The buff-tail is the UK’s largest bumblebee species. In the late part of February, the buff-tailed queen will emerge from hibernation to patrol for nest sites. Taking advantage of the absence of other insect rivals, she gathers nectar from early blooming flowers. Once energy reserves are replenished, she searches for a nest site to support a new worker colony. Dig a small hole under a bush and half-bury a terracotta pot upside down. With a small hole in the top, and a bit of dry grass or dry moss inside it, this makes a nest fit for a queen bumblebee looking to settle down.
Boost for the blues
As early as March, amorous holly blue butterflies are on the wing in pursuit of a partner. Gardeners can increase their chances of attracting a courting pair by providing the plant their spring brood relies on – holly. Once mating has taken place, these butterflies lay their eggs on the flower buds of holly so it is crucial to spare the buds from the pruning shears to provide the right conditions for the family to flourish. Holly blues lay another brood of eggs in summer, this time on ivy flower buds. Growing some ivy in the garden will provide year-round support to holly blues, as well as many other species.
The Big Wildlife Garden Competition has been created to recognise the importance of individuals’ action for nature. It is run by The Wildlife Trusts and the RHS, with funding from The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). To find out how to enter visit www.bigwildlifegarden.org.uk.