Insect Friendly Gardens

I often hear people say that it is important to make green spaces “Insect Friendly”, but what is meant by this?

It is providing and encouraging a variety of different habitats that provide food and shelter for a range of different insects, and avoiding things that would do harm to insects, like using pesticides.

The focus is often on bees and butterflies, and their importance as pollinators. However, not only are other insects important pollinators, but insects have other vital roles in nature, including as food sources for many other animals and as recyclers of natural materials (dead plants, dead animals and poo).

Here are some ideas of positive things you can do to make a garden insect friendly:

Plant a range of trees, shrubs and plants that flower at different times of year

These will provide for insects all the year round. You can find some insect friendly planting guides on the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) website.

Create a dead wood habitat

Many insects, including a number of beetle species, like the cold damp conditions in a dead wood habitat and even eat the dead and decaying wood. Three ways to create one is set out by Gardener’s World.

Have a compost heap

As well being a means of recycling vegetable and garden waste, compost heaps also provide food and shelter for decomposers, many of which are insects. If you would like more information and advice about composting the RHS has an online guide.

Leave an area to grow wild

Areas of long grass are good for certain insects, e.g. for skipper butterflies to lay their eggs. Not mowing as often allows wildflowers, like daisy and buttercups to bloom. These, along with other plants often considered weeds, such as nettles, provide important food sources for insects.

Make an insect hotel

Insect hotels provide hiding places for insects to shelter. We have instructions for making a simple insect hotel on the museum website. If you want to find out more about making a more involved hotel, the RSPB have a guide on their website.

Have you made your garden more insect friendly using these, or any other methods? Tell us about what you have done in the comments below, or via the contact us page.

All photographs © Susie Glover. All rights reserved

Insects Online

When the weather is chilly there aren’t many insects about, but we still have lots of online ‘Crunchy’ insect activities for you to try. We hope they will boost your insect expertise!

How to spot an insect

What makes an insect an insect? How to spot an insect is an introduction to insect anatomy: the body parts that make up an insect. Discover the key features entomologists use spot insects and how insects are different from some of their close relatives. You can then test yourself with our quick quiz!

Insect ID

Ever wondered what that insect is? Insect ID takes you into a deeper exploration of the ‘Big 5’ groups of insects in Britain:

  • beetles
  • bees, wasps & ants
  • butterflies & moths
  • true flies
  • true bugs.

Discover the differences between them, learn how to spot each type and put your skills to the test with our ID challenge.  

Know your bees

There is more to bees than hives and honey! Know your bees explores some of the rich variety of bees found in Britain. We’ve also included some tools to help you make your own observations of bees.

Looking for more?

Hummingbird hawkmoth, Macroglossum stellatarum. Image credit: Rodger Caseby

If you’d like to go a bit further and, as the weather gets a bit warmer, get outside and do some investigating of your own, why not try one of our inset investigation ideas:

  • Different flowers asks whether different types of flower attract different insects
  • Insect Pollination investigates the range of important insect pollinators (it’s not just bees!)
  • Time of day explores whether different insects visit flowers at different times of day

We would love to hear how you get on. Get in touch using the comments below or the Contact Us page.

Cartooning with Chris: Adding perspective and colour

Previously, Chris Jarvis showed us how to draw a mighty Minotaur Beetle (Typhaeus typhoeus) complete with its own ball of dung! In this video Chris returns to add some finishing touches to this picture. He shows us how to convey the size of the beetle, and how to use colour to great effect.

We’d love to see any pictures you draw of insects, whether it is an ant, bee, caterpillar or your very own Minotaur beetle. Share with us at hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk.

Christmas Quiz Answers

We hope you enjoyed our Crunchy Christmas Quiz! Here are the answers.

  1. The holly and the ivy mining bee
  2. Adventomologists
  3. The Grinchafer
  4. The most wonderful time of the yearwig
  5. Snowmantis / Snowmantid
  6. Bethlehemiptera
  7. Myrrhino beetle
  8. 25 December moth
  9. Angelytra
  10. Yulepidoptera

Have fun over the holidays and have a Happy New Year!

Christmas Quiz 2021

To round off an eventful year here at Crunchy on the Outside, we have put together a quiz for you combining our two favourite things: Insects and Christmas!

There are ten questions in the video. Each of the answers is formed by smashing together the two clues. One clue is about insects, the other about Christmas. We’ve included a couple of examples at the start to help you get the hang of it. Don’t worry if a question seems tricky, it’s just for fun and we’ve included some clues below.

Clues

  1. The scientific name of this insect is Colletes hederae.
  2. You will find out about what these scientists study here: https://crunchyontheoutside.com/category/people/
  3. We wrote about these insects in the summer: https://crunchyontheoutside.com/2021/07/05/chafers/
  4. Complete title of the song: Clue: “It’s the most wonderful….”.
  5. This insect may seem holy, but it’s looking for prey.
  6. Find out the name of this group of insects here: https://oumnh.ox.ac.uk/files/2insectidpdf-0
  7. This beetle is named after another horned animal.
  8. We wrote about this insect recently: https://crunchyontheoutside.com/2021/11/29/the-delightful-december-moth/
  9. You’ll need to know the scientific name for the wingcases/hardened forewings of a beetle.
  10. Find the name of this group of insects here: https://oumnh.ox.ac.uk/files/2insectidpdf-0

Answers

Good luck! We’ll publish the answers on the blog on Christmas Eve, so keep an eye out for them. Let us know how many you got right!

Best wishes for Christmas and the new year from all of us at the Crunchy blog!

Kate, Rodger & Susie

Make an Insect in Amber Decoration

Insects that have been trapped in amber (fossilised plant resin) can be preserved in amazing, stunning and beautiful detail. This short video shows you how to make a fossilised insect themed decoration that can be hung on your Christmas tree for the festive period, or can be displayed around you home all year round.

I have included the written instructions in case you find them helpful.

You will need:

  • A glue stick
  • Scissors
  • A Pencil
  • Card (e.g. cereal box)
  • Paper String/wool
  • Orange cellophane sweet wrapper(s)
  • Coloured pencils/pens/glitter

Instructions

  1. Take two pieces of card that are roughly the same size. Put them together with the plain sides facing out.
  2. On one side draw a frame, at least 1cm thick. It can be any shape you choose.
  3. Carefully cut out the frame, including the middle.
  4. Check that your cellophane wrapper will cover both frames. If not, use two.
  5. Use the glue stick to attached the cellophane to the patterned side of the frames.
  6. Trim the cellophane around the frames.
  7. Take a small piece of paper that will fit inside the frames and draw an insect on one side. Trim the excess paper around the insect and then draw a similar insect on the other side.
  8. Use the glue stick to attach the frames together with the insect in the middle, and with the wool/string forming a loop that you can use to hang your decoration.
  9. Decorate your frame using coloured pencils, pens, glitter or anything else that you choose.

We would love to see your amber decorations. Also, can any of you spot the key feature of an insect that I forgot to draw to my insect picture in the video? Let us know in the comments, or by the Contact us page.

To find out more about Insects in Amber look out for a post early next year.