Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Insect world- making your garden insect friendly

Insects are an extremely important part of our ecosystem. Where insects are in balance they should pretty much sort themselves out, some eating others, and some being eaten by birds, frogs, chameleons and bats. Unfortunately using insecticides has created massive imbalances and it has made it very difficult to grow fruits and vegetables organically these days, whereas as little as 100 years ago it was the norm.

I have tried to make my garden insect friendly, and apart from ants and millipedes, which live here in their thousands, insects are most welcome to enjoy the flowers. Insects are very valuable pollinators, and it is interesting to see that bees are not the only ones buzzing in the flowers, but many other species. In order to attract insects to your garden, you need to have plants that attract them, nesting places, such as bits of wood, piles of leaves etc, water and a no insecticide policy.

In my garden there are several water sources, one in each section of the garden. These double up as bird baths and drinking water for pets.

Various plants are extremely attractive to a multitude of insects, including the hummingbird moth, and a variety of bees. One of these is the ribbon bush, (Hypoestes aristata), which blooms in autumn and is absolutely alive with insects at that time.
Hypoestes aristata
This shrub is like a weed, and self seeds prolifically. It prefers sun, but will tolerate shade and is drought tolerant. It needs severe cutting back after flowering.
Posted by Picasa                    Bees having a drink
Don't disturb bees when they are drinking water, because they are liable to sting you, as I learned the hard way when adding water to the bird bath while they were there!
Another shrub that is heaven for bees of all kinds, is the Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha). It also attracts the sun bird
Salvia leucantha
This shrub blooms at least twice a year, and is simply stunning. It prefers sun, will grow in the shade, but won't flower as profusely. I have it planted in clumps and mine bloomed for 3 months - the entire autumn. Everyone who came to my practice commented on it - it was like a gift of glorious purple.
It needs to be cut back very severely after flowering, and can be divided very easily. I have divided mine, and planted the divisions so that it will form a hedge down the side of the garden. I expect a mass of purple next season!
Insects like a garden that is not too tidy. There must be plenty of places for them to have nests and hiding places. There are quite a few sites online where you can get ideas to make insect breeding stations of various sorts.
The bees in my owl box are still happy, and one can clearly see the layers of comb now. How I would like to have some honey!