Is it time for you to start a love affair with insects?

Is it time for you to start a love affair with insects?

by Danielle Thompson (May 2020)

MANY North West residents will be appreciating gardens and parks and the wonderful, colourful wildlife that lives there, for the first time during lockdown.

In particular bees, butterflies and hoverflies add colour and life to your own little oasis. But how many people realise that those insects are under threat and many actually face extinction if our attitudes don’t change now?

Alan Wright from the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside said: “The beasties in your garden are all part of a big family called invertebrates, which means they have no backbone. They are the things that buzz around your flowers and plants.

“There are thousands of species of invertebrates in the North West, but there are signs that suggest many are in danger as numbers have plummeted. Across the world there has been a dramatic decline in the diversity and abundance of invertebrate populations - it is estimated that two in five of our insect species face extinction.

“Of course, we all notice the huge bumblebees moving steadily from flower to flower, the hoverfly holding its nerve as it hangs in the air staring you out and butterflies flittering in and out of the sunlight, but there are many other insects that need our help.

“Even annoying midges and aphids serve a purpose, without these little horrors we might not have bats and swallows swooping in and out of our green patch.

“Insects are a foundation of our ecosystems; much of our wildlife relies on insects for survival and insects are also fundamental to sustainable food production.

“Without insects many birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and fish would die out as they would have nothing to eat. Some 87% of all plant species require animal pollination, most of it delivered by insects – that is pretty much all of them except grasses and conifers. In addition, three out of four of all the crops that we grow require pollination by insects.

“Insect numbers have dropped because of the use of pesticides in gardens and in the countryside, but many land-owners have failed to appreciate the importance of wild flowers and hedgerows.

“In our gardens a lot of people would prefer a patio or a pristine green lawn, reducing areas where insects can live and their predators can hunt. It’s easy to look after a patio, well for the first couple of years until the dandelions start to appear.

“Those dandelions are more of a colourful addition to your lawn and will interest bees and flies throughout spring and summer. If you cut out the pesticides and use peat-free compost then you are helping to repair the environment. Get your neighbours to do the same and you will create a huge nature reserve in your avenue, street and town.

“Obviously, supporting our campaigns to cut pesticide use will put pressure on the agricultural sector to reduce their chemicals. Many farmers have led the way on this, looking for more organic methods of work and are finding it pays dividends.

“So next time you are in your garden, make sure you enjoy the colour, sound and diversity of bugs, and then check out ways to help them thrive on the website of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside at lancswt.org.uk/wilder-future-campaign/action-insects.”

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