My job revolves around protected sites and whilst I fully appreciate the invertebrate wonders to be found on nature reserves and sites of special scientific interest, since reading Ken Thompson’s ‘No Nettles Required’ well over a decade ago, I’ve long since championed the humble garden as a relatively untapped source of biodiversity in an increasingly urban world. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, UK gardens cover an area larger than all our nature reserves combined and with the State of Nature 2019 reporting the decline of 41% of UK species, gardeners can make a significant positive impact on biodiversity and habitat connectivity on a landscape scale.
I’m a firm believer that you can have a reasonably aesthetically-pleasing, productive garden and increase urban biodiversity at the same time without resorting to the commonly purported ‘leave your garden to go wild’ approach as the only method of success. Managed in the right way, a domestic garden can yield some truly surprising results.
I’ve been the curator of my current garden for just over 10 years and by today’s standards, it’s a reasonable size, about 8m wide by 30m long, located in a suburban environment, at least 1km from the nearest countryside. Since moving here, I’ve steadily developed the garden into a space that works for both me and wildlife. It would be fair to say that before a recent career change into nature conservation, my wildlife recording over the years has been fairly ad hoc, limited to mostly weekend observations and a far cry from Jennifer Owen’s epic 30-year study of a suburban Leicestershire garden. Nevertheless, I’ve observed an increasing diversity of invertebrate species visiting or living in my garden as it develops and matures.
I’ve been working on a mini project of my own, going back through all my garden photographic records to identify, where possible, the invertebrate species and submit them to iRecord. My list is currently running at 244 species, including 27 solitary bee and 39 hoverfly species, and I haven’t even started recording moths in earnest yet (next year!) nor have I made it through all the other Diptera records (job for over Christmas!).
2020 has been an exceptional year for many not so good reasons but for new garden records it has been very positive, probably as a result of me spending most of my lunch breaks with the camera, wandering around the garden, rather than my usual nature reserve office base. It was difficult to choose but here are my top 10 favourite invertebrate highlights for this year from my Southport suburban garden. Enjoy!
- An Abia sp. sawfly (probably Abia lonicerae)
2. Bishop’s Mitre shieldbug Aelia acuminata
3. 11-spot ladybird Coccinella undecimpunctata
4. Possibly the cutest weevil, Cionus scrophulariae Figwort weevil
5. The brilliantly green Swollen-thighed beetle Oedemera nobilis
6. Eristalinus sepulchralis, a superb hoverfly with distinctive spotty eyes
7. Ornate-tailed digger wasp Cerceris rybyensis – a bee-hunting wasp
8. Reported in an earlier blog, not only a female Locust Blow-fly Stomorhina lunata but a male appeared as well!
9. The amazingly hairy Vapourer Moth Orgyia antiqua caterpillar which has a liking for herbaceous geraniums
10. At last, after years of scrutinising the hedge on sunny September days, an Ivy Bee Colletes hederae
Hayhow, D.B., Eaton, M.A., Stanbury, A.J., Burns, F., Kirby, W.B., Bailey, N., Beckmann, B., Bedford, J., Boersch-Supan, P.H., Coomber, F., Dennis, E.B., Dolman, S.J., Dunn, E., Hall, J., Harrower, C., Hatfield, J.H., Hawley, J., Haysom, K., Hughes, J., Johns, D.G., Mathews, F., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Noble, D.G., Outhwaite, C.L., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Pescott, O.L., Powney, G.D. and Symes, N. (2019). The State of Nature 2019. The State of Nature partnership.
Owen, J. (2010). Wildlife of a Garden: A Thirty-Year Study. Royal Horticultural Society, London.
Thompson, K. (2006). No Nettles Required – The reassuring truth about wildlife gardening. Transworld Publishers, London.