Contributor: Leonie Twentyman Jones.
What a radical concept these are for gardeners of the 21st century!
For years we have been concerned with a fight against ‘pests’ that have munched all the new fresh green shoots on our plants, laid eggs on their leaves to ensure that hatching larvae would have a good meal, and burrowed into the earth chopping off each new seedling as it emerged. Then there were suggestions about which pesticide or herbicide or insecticide was suitable to combat these enemies – numerous poisons were developed to ensure that our plants survived and flourished in the 20th century.
Gradually a suspicion developed that perhaps all these pesticides, herbicides and insecticides were having a detrimental effect on the wider ecology of our planet. Various alternative recipes were circulated to deter pests without harming the earth.
Then – shock/horror – there was the suggestion that poisons were actually harming the ‘good’ insects i.e. the pollinators like bees, butterflies, flies, wasps etc. which the human race needs in order to survive, as they ensure that the plants we eat continue growing.
Gardening books, websites and blogs suddenly became full of articles about how to attract ‘good’ insects to our gardens, while still suggesting ways of dealing with ‘bad’ insects.
Now suddenly 21st century ecologists are telling us that there has been a significant decline in the number of flying insects over the last 20 years – declines of 76-82% in Europe – who knows what these percentages are in Africa? These insects are pollinators; or insects eaten by pollinators like birds; or insects eaten by other insects etc. All are vital in preserving the food chain.
So now gardeners are being asked and pleaded with to build ‘bug hotels’ in their gardens to help insects survive. There are websites and numerous photos on the internet of designs for bug hotels; how to interest your children and grandchildren in making bug hotels; plans for trendy ‘designer’ bug hotels to enhance your garden.
Please bugs, come back to our gardens – all is forgiven – you may eat some plants as long as you continue pollinating our plants so that the human race can survive.
Why have insects declined? Some blame pesticides; some say monoculture; some say development of wilderness areas; some say sterile, bleak gardens with no place to hide. Clearly insects prefer untidy gardens, but if you prefer a neat, excessively tidy garden – please build a bug hotel. You will be contributing to the survival of the planet as well as to the lives of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.