Quarter of adults don’t know what a caterpillar turns into, poll claims

Despite abysmal lack of knowledge, Britons are still trying to turn their gardens into wildlife havens, survey finds

Astrid Cooper
Thursday 23 June 2022 06:00 BST
Conservation expert says biodiversity is ‘integral to human prosperity’

Wildlife-shy Britons cannot identify most birds or bugs in their gardens apart from pigeons and robins, according to a survey.

As many as three in four of the 2,000 adults polled would only feel confident identifying more common birds, like pigeons, over rarer garden varieties.

Just over half were able to correctly point out a robin – but only because of its distinctive red breast.

A further 55 per cent did not know whether there was a difference between a moth and a butterfly, and one-quarter did not know a caterpillar will eventually transform into a butterfly.

More than one in 10 had “no idea” whether their garden was biodiversity-friendly, with 62 per cent wishing they had learnt more about nature and wildlife as a child.

Sixteen per cent of parents said they thought their children knew far more about nature than them, with 53 per cent of these grateful for television wildlife programmes.

A spokesperson for housebuilder Redrow, which commissioned the research, said: "It's vital to have at least a little understanding of what's happening in our gardens.

“The more we learn and understand, the more we can help the wildlife around us thrive.

“It’s so important to make your garden or any outdoor space you have a welcoming environment for wildlife, whether that’s growing more flowers for bugs and insects or creating homes and feeding birds.”

The survey also found 66 per cent of parents had schools to thank for educating their offspring on the natural environment.

Half claimed the influence of people like Greta Thunberg had helped their children understand and learn more, with 47 per cent also saying social media played a big part.

It also emerged 14 per cent of adults could not tell the difference between a magpie and a blackbird, and more than four in 10 were stumped when it came to distinguishing between a marigold and petunia.

The typical adult can identify about six common garden birds and six regular garden insects.

Three-quarters could not tell the difference between all kinds of bees and wasps, and just one-quarter were aware that only the honey bees die once they sting you.

But, despite this lack of education, three in 10 respondents had left their lawn and garden to grow wild to help encourage biodiversity, with 67 per cent saying their yard provided a welcome space to bees and other pollinators.

However, ight in 10 would still like to make changes to their garden space to make it more sustainable, including growing their own fruits and vegetables, composting their own waste, creating a “wild” area and installing a water butt.

The research, conducted via OnePoll, found 80 per cent agreed access to open spaces and nature was good for their happiness and wellbeing.

Redrow's spokesperson added: “Despite people not always understanding or being able to identify what’s in their garden, it’s great to see that many are still trying to do what they can to create an inviting outdoor space for them.

“It only takes small and simple changes, and you don’t need a huge space to do these things either.

"Aside from the environmental benefits, it’s no surprise to hear of the benefit spending time outdoors has on our wellbeing which is another reason why we’ve launched ‘nature school’ sessions at a host of our developments."

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