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A Garden of Riches

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Posted: Thursday 10th August 2017 by WildBlog

By Cathy Doel, Avon Wildlife Trust volunteer

I didn’t plan to get into bugs and insects, but discovering a batch of green shield bugs in my garden one summer got me interested in where they had come from and how come I hadn’t noticed them before. I wanted to know more. Did they start off as larvae? Where are they for the rest of the year? That winter I found some hibernating in a sheltered crevice in a wall while pulling out a weed that was growing there, so I stopped tidying up and started taking more notice of what was living in my garden. The next summer I saw the bugs again but this time in their earlier stages of development. Green shield bugs hatch from tiny eggs as very small nymphs which crawl around whatever plant they were laid on and then go through five or so skin-shedding stages over a summer until they reach adulthood. They are very photogenic, especially when huddled together on a plant. I no longer dead-head my aquilegia flowers because whole broods of these bugs will turn up on the seed heads.

Since then I’ve found rose chafers, crickets, beetles and miner bees all making their homes in various places in my small city garden. They don’t seem like pests, even the rose chafer grubs that live in the pots outside my back door. They haven’t caused visible damage and in any case I can accept a small amount of chewing. After all, they have to live somewhere in their initial stages in order to grow into beautiful shiny beetles. I’m reminded that you can’t have a butterfly without having the caterpillar first.

Mine is a living garden, and that’s what I love about it. It inspires me to connect with nature because I can see that what I do in my garden has an impact on the lifecycle of these insects and bugs, and that in turn attracts birds. This year we’ve had dunnocks and blackbirds for the first time. I’m more careful about how I maintain my garden now because leaving things alone allows creatures to complete their lifecycle (or the bird’s lifecycle!).

What motivates me to pay such close attention? The reward is being involved in nature, represented by these tiny creatures that spend their whole lives in my small garden. It’s absorbing and takes me out of my world. It’s only a small patch and my effort is only a drop in the ocean but it connects to other drops in other gardens nearby which are no doubt supporting other colonies of various insects. It’s all part of feeling connected to the wider landscape, even in the middle of the city.

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