Insect hunting in the garden in early summer
Published in the Welsh Country Magazine, Early Summer 2009
When you think of Pembrokeshire
and its wildlife, often what comes to mind is the red-legged, chough, the
techni-coloured puffin or perhaps the dolphin. However, Pembrokeshire's
wildlife is not limited to the large, the charismatic and the cuddly (or the
sea-faring). Take a closer look at where
you are placing your feet and you will come across a whole new world of
wildlife wonders in the undergrowth...and then you find that you become
addicted to looking for them!
This time of year is a great time
to start hunting, as with flowers out in full bloom and the weather warming up,
insects emerge from hibernation and begin to feast and sunbathe. Of over 1
million known species of insect in the world, more than 23 thousand make our
island their home. The weight of ants on the planet is greater than the weight
of humans and 80% of the world's species are insects! Therefore we really do
live in ‘the world of the bugs'.
So where do you start if you want
to dip into Pembrokeshire's insect life? A good place is your own back garden.
Pick up a stone or piece of wood, and you're bound to come across a ground
beetle. These beetles are your generic ‘black beetle', but did you know that
many of them such as the black clock beetle will actually help control slugs in
your garden? Perhaps better not to crunch them underfoot after all!
Move to any flowering plant and
you will see that it is buzzing with life. Hoverflies dart amongst the blossoms
looking for nectar. With their black and yellow stripes, you may confuse them
for bees or wasps. They are however defenceless, but playing on the fact that a
predator may think twice before tackling a meal that might give it a nasty
Speaking of the bees, we should be
doing everything we can to protect these fabulous creatures. Bees and other
insect pollinators are responsible for the pollination of over a third of the
food that we eat, but are currently in severe decline due to loss of habitat
and increased pesticide use! At this time of year, look out in the garden for
the large buff-tailed bumble bee, the honey bee, the common carder bee or the
aptly-named red-tailed bumble bee. If you want to encourage more of these insects
then how about planting a bee restaurant with plants such as heather, lavender,
buddleia and phacelia?
Then there are the click beetles:
these bullet-shaped beetles are able to flip themselves over if they end up on
their backs. Have a look for click beetles under leaves and climbing up stalks
and place one of them upside down on your hand. It will ‘ping' off your hand
with an audible ‘click' that will really make you jump!
So why not go for a hunt around,
and who knows, you may find one of Pembrokeshire's rarities in your back garden.
All you need to be armed with is a sunny day, a keen pair of eyes and good
general identification guide and you are away...and then you have the rest of
the county to explore!
©S.A. Beynon, 2009