Things to know about insects, pollinators and predators

How to encourage ‘good’ insects

Pollinators and pest controllers need a diverse range of habitats that

offer shelter, alternative prey, flowers and freedom from insecticides

so they can build up sufficient numbers to control pests adequately

* Hedges, shrubs and tussocky grass left uncut at the end of the

year ‘beetle banks’ give shelter and provide places for species such as

beetles to over-winter

* Flowers that provide pollen and nectar from early spring to autumn

are important, particularly for parasitic wasps, bumblebees and

hover-flies, which are mobile and will fly into an area to feed before

laying their eggs close by

Annuals, such as phacelia, alyssum and coriander, attract hoverflies,

as do perennials such as wild carrot, wild angelica, yarrow, knapweed

(above) and scabious. The latter two, plus clovers, trefoils and vetches, provide successive food sources for bumblebees

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To create these habitats on farmland, the G&WCT developed beetle banks and the conservation headland (the edge of a cereal crop where weeds are

allowed to flourish); these are now funded under the Government’s Stewardship scheme.

Pollen and nectar mixes and flower-rich grass margins can also be paid for under the scheme. Sometimes, pests will only occur sporadically during the growing season, so alternative prey must be provided for these beneficial insects. They will forage in many different places, so a mixed habitat such as some unkempt areas will encourage them to stay. Then, if an outbreak of aphids occurs, the ‘army’ is ready for action.

Top 5 pollinators

Bumblebee Useful in cold weather. The hairs conserve heat in the thorax, so they can be active in early spring and early morning, while the rest are having a lie-in.

Hoverfly Good all-rounder, and great for vegetable seeds

Solitary bee Often criticalto specific plant species. You can encourage solitary bees into your garden by planting pollen-rich flowers, such as thistles and alliums, and by making or buying a bee box

Butterfly Wonderful for those delicate flowers, such as ragged robin, that specialise in attracting them

Moth They fly by night, and are attracted by heady summer evening scents, like those of honeysuckle and night-scented stock

Top 5 predators

Hoverfly Their larvae are voracious consumers of aphids

Beetle Both the larvae and adult ladybird consume aphids, and some larger beetles prey on slugs

Lacewing The gardener’s friend, as their larvae eat lots of aphids

Spider You only need to look around on a late summer morning when the dew is on their webs to see how many traps they

Parasitic fly The hidden army. Often, we’re only aware of them when they hatch out of their unfortunate host