How to protect insects in your garden

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White-tailed bumblebee by Danni Thompson.

Gardens are an increasingly important habitat for many insect species – they form a refuge for invertebrates from intensively farmed countryside and flower-free urban landscapes.

However, pesticides and insecticides can reduce the variety of species and kill not just pests but natural predators such as ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies.

Environmentalists are concerned about the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides (‘neonics’), used as a coating for agricultural seeds and in pot plants, on the health and life-cycle of insects, especially honeybees. In addition, two neonics (thiacloprid and acetamiprid) are available to the public in garden products.

 

THE FACTS

300+ The number of aphids that can be eaten by a hoverfly in its larval stage before it becomes an adult.

75% The decline in butterflies and bees in the UK due to the loss of traditional farmland flowers. 

80,000+ The number of honeybees that can be killed by only 0.5mg of neonicotinoid per maize seed kernel. 

700+ The number of pesticide products that have been approved for use in UK homes and gardens. 

 

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

"According to a report from Greenpeace, 43 per cent of ornamental plants that were purchased across 10 European countries were found to contain neonicotinoids.” Matt Shardlow CEO, Buglife

"Insects are an integral part of a healthy garden because they pollinate plants, play a vital role in waste management and form a food supply for other species.” Chris Baines, environmentalist and author

 

HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

1. Put the chemicals away 

Avoid insecticides and pesticides altogether. Deter pests by companion planting, using barriers and creating a rich mixture of wildlife habitats in your garden to attract natural predators. Find out which pesticides contain neonicotinoids

2. Grow wild 

Attract pollinators by using colourful annuals such as cornflowers and let weeds grow to feed insect larvae. Find out how to make a mini meadow.

3. Support a cause

Become a member of the charity Garden Organic to support organic-gardening education, and sign up for Buglife’s Get Britain Buzzing campaign. 

4. Challenge retailers

Ask whether a plant has been treated with chemicals, demand clearer labelling and request organic pesticides and insecticides.

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