Cleve West: 'How far are people prepared to go with 'insectocide' in order to keep nuisance at bay?'

Urban Gardener

Despite a general improvement in environmental awareness, insects still get a bum deal. While their pollinating skills are obvious, much of their work as far as predation, decomposing and cleaning goes largely unseen. Things are improving for them in the gardener's world but I still see articles where they're pigeon-holed into the friend-or-foe category, the good being tolerated, the bad stamped, swatted, swiped, skewered or sprayed without any thought or concern that that they might be someone's supper. So engrained is this ignorance that it gives rise to extraordinary behaviour. Crane fly persecution is just one example of perverted perspective. As "daddy-long-legs" they just terrorise the squeamish, but in its early stages as a chafer grub, it is universally vilified by lawn fanatics due to the fact that they cause yellow patches in turf (hardly a big deal in my book). In another example, next door to a garden I was landscaping, I questioned a man as to why he was putting ant-powder on the footpath and road adjacent to his front garden. He said that ants were getting into his kitchen, some 70 feet or so away on the other side of the house. It made me wonder how far people are prepared to go with "insectocide" in order to keep nuisance at bay.

These musings came to mind recently while watching a swarm of ladybirds outside make their way through our kitchen window, up the wall to a small nucleus in the corner that had already staked their claim for winter. It seemed a touch early (mid-October) for such a frantic rush to hibernation but less than two weeks later temperatures plummeted with an early taste of winter so there they will remain (30 or so) in a huddle benefiting from each other's warmth. Quite how they will cope with the fluctuations in temperature and humidity of a kitchen remains to be seen, but intrinsic behaviour such as this should be inspiring enough to engender respect for the insect world.

If I have made anyone feel just a tiny bit guilty then it's not too late to make amends. The best thing you can do is to resist the urge to tidy up your garden too much. Cutting stems of herbaceous perennials back to ground level is customarily undertaken between now and spring but for all the wildlife that depends on hollow stems and debris in which to hole up for the winter, "putting the garden to bed" is nothing less than a rude awakening. Chopping hollow-stemmed plants (think onopordum, macleaya, and agapanthus) half way allows easier access for creatures like ladybirds, lacewings and small beetles. If you are time-poor in spring or really need to see clean beds and tidy borders in winter consider keeping bundles of woody debris in a place out of sight behind the compost heap, shed or under a hedge. The only real problem is timing. Clearing everything too early in spring can still damage hibernating insects. Too late and you'll risk damaging the new shoots emerging. But if you work regularly in the garden you will get to know the specific microclimates and idiosyncrasies of your space and will know instinctively when things are on the move.

If this still doesn't appeal then creative debris could be the way forward. We have log-piles resembling termite mounds at the allotment (although the health and safety mania that has gripped the nation has obviously got to me as I haven't got round to building one much more than a metre tall to date) which look reasonably sculptural in a Goldsworthy-esque sort of way. Logs will house myriad insects, not to mention amphibians and small rodents. Even wrens will make nests in them if reasonably sheltered. Their relative permanence makes them a more attractive proposition as the risks creatures take when using gardens to hibernate for winter are enormous and many suffer at the hands of "friendly fire". My personal accidental death tally is thankfully low in terms of more prominent wildlife but, no matter how vigilant, I can't seem to go through a whole winter without accidently disturbing a queen wasp in the allotment shed. Wasps get unreasonably bad press generally but it's actually quite distressing knowing that you've just killed the mother of a new colony. This insect-friendly urban gardener needs to be vigilant and perhaps a touch less sensitive, because right now he doesn't feel like ever setting foot in the garden again.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes