About two years ago I wrote a blog post which may (I hope) have opened a few peoples' eyes - "Are British garden wildlife lovers HARMING wildlife?".
I'm sure it will have offended a fair few too.
I know, I know.... 2020 has been an exhausting (so far) year hasn't it? - and there are probably far more important things to get flustered by than British garden wildlife lovers demonstrating to me very clearly that they really don't love wildlife at all - they just say they do.
- They vote Tory and then bemoan the fact that the party they've literally voted into government extend (ad infinitum?) the unscientific and desperately cruel badger cull.
- They vote for Brexit and then wail and wring their gnarled hands in protest that a lot of the environmental (and food now) protection and standards we currently "enjoy" will be ripped up as we leave the EU - which again... they literally voted for.... because, well... you know... asylum seekers.
- They cover their gardens in bird feeders - and never move them nor clean them - ensuring that the avian zoonoses are passed quickly around the local bird populations resulting in many birds (some declining quite worryingly now) such as greenfinches, chaffinches and doves dying slowly from preventable diseases such as trich.
- They put up bee hotels and screw them to a fence facing the prevailing weather - and without thinking that the way they've screwed them to the fence will ensure that rain will collect in the larval cells (they've not pointed the hotel slightly downwards (see the photo below of one of my older bee hotels - it's pointing down deliberately) to allow rainwater to escape. Then they leave them in situ for year after year after year after year to get covered in fungus and parasites, thus condemning the bees that use these hotels to a particularly unnatural competition just to survive.
- They dig "wildlife" ponds and fill them with tap water and non native plants. Oh. And fish.
- They mow their monoculture lawn (a desert to mist wildlife) and imprison hedgehogs in their tellytubby gardens by ensuring bottoms of border fences are impenetrable to newts let alone hedgehogs.
- They'll happily kill all wasps and bees and hornets nests and any spider anywhere NEAR precious little Timmy and Jemima.
I could go on.
I don't vote Tory nor did I vote to leave the EU, nor do I feed birds in the garden with bought food (other than monkey nuts for jays sometimes) but I DO provide bee hotels for the non-social bees such as leafcutters and mason bees which I do find absolutely fascinating.
Yup. I wrote that blog post two years ago when I wasn't taking my bee hotels down each autumn to keep them dry and fungus free each winter.
This year though... I've decided to behave far more responsibly (at last). With the actual BEES in mind, rather than just me.
I've taken all my bee hotels down (many with mason and leafcutter eggs in) and put them in my deserted chicken run for the winter.
Come the spring I will put them all inside a covered, empty water butt, already set up for the purpose, with an exit "hatch" cut into the side of the plastic water butt, so when the bees emerge in the late spring/summer - they can leave the covered water butt but NOT go back to their hotel to lay their own eggs etc - as their old hotel cells will still be at the bottom of the dry, empty, covered water butt - invisible to the new adult bees.
I will of course have screwed NEW hotels to the fence post right by the water butt - where the old hotels were last year.
Everyone with bee hotels should do this.
Everyone who has bee hotels screwed to walls and fences in their garden has a RESPONSIBILITY to do this.
Some may, of course. The tiniest minority.
The vast majority though, will just leave the poor bees to effectively drown or have their cells swamped in fungus or parasites.
All the while proclaiming to their friends and family and internet just how much they LOVE THEIR GARDEN WILDLIFE.
Please grapple fans.
If you DO really love your garden wildlife (and there's nothing wrong with that at all of course - far from it) ... then please ACT like you do.
- Buy (or make?) bird feeders and baths that are very easy to take apart regularly... to thoroughly clean them. With hot water and detergent. If they aren't easy to clean - believe me... before long you simply won't bother cleaning them at all. It takes too long. It's too awkward.
- MOVE your bird feeders and baths. REGULARLY. I'm talking every single week.
- Don't fill your pond with tap water.
- Don't put fish in a wildlife pond (permanent ponds don't tend to exist outside gardens and if they do (they don't) they certainly don't have fish in them).
- Stock your garden with native plants that probably don't look too great - but that's what the wildlife WANTS.
- Leave great swathes of your garden (if you're lucky enough to have great swathes!) pretty untidy.
- Stay away from the chemicals (roundup and slug pellets etc).
- Dig hedgehog holes under your fences
- Take your bee hotels down over the winter (as I have done this year - see above) and put up new ones next year.
10. Please be honest enough to admit that you're wildlife gardening as much for yourself as the wildlife you hope to attract.