Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Biodiversity, the RHS and a competition!

I’ve mentioned in a previous post about it being the International Year of Biodiversity. And whilst worrying about the conservation status of mountain tapirs and giant pandas, we may feel a little hopeless about what we can do to help. The United Nations do give us some suggestions on what we can do to improve biodiversity, but it is within our own little pieces of the world that we can do most of all.
Encouraging biodiversity isn’t just about conserving rain forests and saving tigers from extinction. In the UK, biodiversity has been studied for many years, and organisations such as the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) contain a wealth of information about biodiversity in the UK, including maps of the distribution of some species. The RHS has been working with the NBN to map the spread of the rather naughty red lily beetle in the UK, using reports from gardeners across the country. It looks like much of Wales is OK at the moment, but I can vouch for it being present in Chester. Whilst in general I’m all for biodiversity, I’m afraid that my enthusiasm doesn’t extend to welcoming this frass-encrusted blighter into the garden.

The RHS is keen to encourage recognition of the International Year of Biodiversity and to inspire gardeners to ‘do their bit’ to help maintain diversity. Whilst some may mutter about bandwagons and jumping, the RHS has been involved in surveying biodiversity over a long period of time (nearly 40 years worth of moth survey data at RHS Wisley and a long-term review of plant and animal records at RHS sites, with some data going back to 1910). Anyone going to Chelsea Flower Show this year will have a chance to learn more about supporting wildlife in the RHS’s Continuous Learning area.

So practically, what can we do? The RHS suggest that doing even just one thing to encourage biodiversity will help. They have a range of suggestions for encouraging wildlife into the garden, as do other organisations such as BugLife and the RSPB. Sometimes it’s easy to think about encouraging pretty birds into the garden, but the rather less camera-friendly creepy-crawlies are vital to a well-functioning ecosystem. If I may quote Sir David Attenborough, an absolute hero of mine:

“It is that range of biodiversity that we must care for - the whole thing - rather than just one or two stars.”
“If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the land’s ecosystems would collapse. We would do very well to remember them."

As keen garden bloggers, you are probably more aware than many, and more active than many on this topic. And now is your chance to show what you have done to encourage biodiversity in your own little patch of the wider ecosystem, in a competition!

All you have to do is email me a photograph demonstrating biodiversity in your garden, and a short description of how you encourage it.* I will post the photos up on this blog, and will choose a winner shortly after the closing date of Sunday 18th April. The RHS are kindly offering a prize of RHS membership for one year to the winner. Benefits of membership include free entry to RHS gardens (if you’re lucky enough to have one near you!), free access to RHS recommended gardens, 12 issues of The Garden magazine, and expert horticultural advice.

You may well see a few UK blogs running this competition, so if you don’t win on this blog, you may win elsewhere. Good luck, and whilst we may not be able to do much to help the plight of the mountain tapir, we can do a little to support the dwindling numbers of wild birds, butterflies, bumblebees and bugs that help our gardens function.**

* Please email your photos and fewer than 100 words of explanation as to how you encourage diversity to happymouffetard at gmail dot com. All (appropriate!) photos will be posted here, and the winner's photo may be posted on the RHS website. The judge's decision is final. The winner will receive one year's free membership of the RHS. Open to UK residents only, I'm afraid.

** Yes, I know that I’m guilty of double standards, wishing death on the beautiful lily beetle whilst encouraging everyone to support insect life. But they eat my beautiful snakeshead fritillaries!

EDIT: Just found via Twitter this link to the Royal Entomological Society's Garden Entomology leaflet - lots of information on creepy-crawlies in there.


Plant Mad Nige said...

I've always thought the biggest single measure, to enhance biodiversity in a garden, is to be a little more untidy. In a laissez-faire garden, the bugs coexist much more happily than one which is trimmed and scrimped and primped and scraped and clipped and generally fiddled with - all for the sake of looking groomed.

Hope you squished the lily beetle, once you had shot it!

BTW if we're already members of the RHS, can we have chocolate instead, if we win?

HappyMouffetard said...

Nigel, if it's a case of untidiness, then I'm extremely wildlife friendly! Yes, the lily beetle was dispatched rapidly - the little tinker. A chocolate alternative sounds good, especially as quite a few bloggers are probably already members. I'm not sure the RHS would go for that though :(

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Chocolate sounds like good alternative as I'm not a UK resident.

When I see lily beetles in my garden I come over all Dalek: exterminate, exterminate!

Am sad that there is a big chance that soon the tiger will become extinct. Is my fav kittycat, you see, and it breaks my heart that there are so few of the most gorgeous of creatures left.

Gardening with nature has been my motto from the word go and as I am a firm believer in the live and let live policy, all kinds of wildlife do very well in my garden. Except for lily beetles of course!

HappyMouffetard said...

Yolanda - yes, it's heart-breaking to think about animals and plants just disappearing for ever.

Jo said...

What a great competition and a fab prize. This one will really get us thinking about what we actually do to promote biodiversity in our gardens and if we could do more.

Gardening in a Sandbox said...

Thanks for your thoughts on biodiversity. There was an article in the Toronto Star this morning that said that the monarch butterfly may not be able to make up its usual population because of the lack of habitat in Mexico. They are cutting down too many trees and clear cutting for more agriculture thus pushing the monarch out. Valerie

GloriaBonde said...

Lovely pictures -

Nick said...

Build a bug motel! :


(Not a competition entry, as we're already RHS members, unless there really can be a chocolate alternative....)

Sue Garrett said...

Hi and thanks for visiting my blog.
We try and encourage biodiversity in both our garden and on our allotment plots.
We have grass paths which double as beetle banks - a bit more work but also I think nothing looks nicer than the soil set off with green borders.

We grow lots of flowers for cutting but also for the insects and birds - sunflowers are always popular and leaving the seed heads in place provides foraging.

We also plant excess cuttings of shrubs for the garden and have a row of buddleias which are very populat with bees and butterflies.

In the corner of our plot is a nettle bed and we also grow comfrey - the bits alloed to flower are popular with bees as are the foxgloves.

Our blackberry provides enough fruit for us and wildlife and once we have had our fill of redcurrants they are uncovered to allow blackbirds to take their share.

We have had hedgehogs nesting in piles on straw so care is taken when moving piles of 'debris'.

Our compost heap is also a favourite overwintering place for frogs and toads.

Must admit you have given me inspiration to write an article for my website as I have a wildlife section on it.

Next project is to make a bee nesting block.

Juliet said...

Those are gorgeous photos, HM, and a very thought-provoking post.

I'm unlikely to have time/brain to write 100 words and find/take a photo by 18 April, so I will summarise what I would say if I were going to -

I use no chemicals. At all. The garden had virtually no wildlife when we moved in, now it is full of wildlife - and I don't think that's a co-incidence.

No lily beetles, but I do stomp on vine weevils and ants. Encouraging biodiversity has to have some limits ...

Sue Garrett said...

I'm too squeamish to stomp on anything - my method of dispersing vine weevils it to place them on an empty compost bag and leave them for a few minutes. They stand out against the black background of the bag.

The blackbirds or robins or some other bird just pop down and goggles them for lunch

Sue Garrett said...

I meant gobbles - been seeing the word Google too many times

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a very encouraging post for all of us who try to help bugs balance out naturally in the garden.
We don't get them in Australia, so can I ask if the third picture is a bumble bee? It's an amazing shot!

HappyMouffetard said...

Jo - I hope you have a chance to enter the competition.

Valerie - thanks for visiting the blog. What a shame if the mass migrations of the monarch were to be reduced.

Gloria - thank you :-)

Nick - great idea. and great excuse for buying in a wine box. The choc idea seems popular, but unfortunately the RHS aren't supplying it :-(

Green Lane Allotments - some real inspiration for us all there - a fantastic number of biodiversity-friendly actions. I look forward to reading your post.

Juliet - a very important point. The 100 words is optional - a photo would be good though.

GLA - we're lucky - we don't seem to have vine weevil here at the moment. I did pick off a load of solomon's seal sawfly and put them on the bird table, but the birds ignored them - don't know if they taste nasty? (I'm not going to try one).

Gippslandgardener - yes, it is a bumblebee. I couldn't imagine being witout them in the garden.

Town Mouse said...

What a great idea! Maybe I'll do a post anyway. The last issue of Scientific American had Biodiversity as one of the two most pressing problems (climate change was a distant third). So, I think you're on to something.

VP said...

I see you also are a prominent member of the gardening community ;)

I think we've had the same email from the RHS PR people? You're quicker off the mark than I am, well done!

I must time my competition with the ending of yours so all the non-winners can have another go...

HappyMouffetard said...

Town mouse - glad to have inspired you. A hugely important topic.

VP - ;-) I couldn't think what to blog about next so used this as inspiration - I presume that there'll be quite a few of these comps in the next few weeks, which is great as it will give people a better chance of winning.

Juliet said...

So much for no lilies meaning no lily beetles! - I found one happily munching my daffodils the day after I posted my previous comment :( - the phrase famous last words comes to mind.

Happy Easter!

JT said...

Absolutely wonderful, so sad that us gardeners are experiencing the same losses all over the world. I will continue to do my part and hope to educate others in the process.

Gardening in a Sandbox said...

I am all for supporting biodiversity in our garden and take great care to grow native plants that can be used by pollinators or hosts for insect larvae. As the lily beetle is a nonnative and has no enemies I am declaring myself enemy number 1. V