Insects are disappearing at an alarming rate, but you can help?

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:43 03 July 2020

Ladybirds like to spend time in bug hotels (c) Ken Hayes

Ladybirds like to spend time in bug hotels (c) Ken Hayes

Ken Hayes

Insects are vital to human life but they are under threat and we can all do our bit to help, writes Jenny Bennion from Lancashire Wildlife Trust

Bug hotel (c) Jenny BennionBug hotel (c) Jenny Bennion

Across the country we are seeing an alarming decline in our numbers of insects. In fact, 41 per cent of UK insect species are currently facing extinction, with insect populations declining eight times faster than mammals. But it’s not too late to take action and help to stop the decline.

You may not think you’re a great lover of insects, except maybe bees and butterflies, but insects are actually the most important family of animals on our planet. More than 80 per cent of plants are pollinated by insects, and that includes our food crops, with three quarters of them relying on insects 
for pollination.

And although this doens’t relate to Lancashire’s wildlife, the cocoa tree is almost exclusively pollinated by a certain type of midge (the ceratopogonid midge to be exact), so without insects we wouldn’t have chocolate – and that would affect us all!

So, it seems like an obvious move to keep our insects happy. However, with the widespread use of pesticides and our green spaces becoming decidedly less green and significantly less biodiverse, our vital insect populations are suffering.

A large heath butterfly at Winmarleigh Moss (c) Alan WrightA large heath butterfly at Winmarleigh Moss (c) Alan Wright

But there are simple actions you can take from home that could really improve the lot of our important insects – and might keep the kids amused for a while too. Simple fun activities such as planting an insect-friendly window box or border can give insects vital sources of food, or why not give them a safe place to shelter by building a bug hotel?

A bug hotel can be as simple or as extravagant as you want. Most insects actually don’t mind if they are staying in a budget B&B or a five star resort, so you can use materials you have to hand to create a perfect place for them to shelter or breed.

One afternoon, with a few basic tools, a bit of old decking and a couple of bored kids on my hands, we decided to give it a go.

The first job was to construct a simple frame, so we cut lengths of leftover decking board to create a rectangular frame and then nailed them together. The kids got stuck in, enjoying making wonky cuts and regularly endangering my thumbs with the hammer.

And then came the even more fun bit. Once the frame was in place in a quiet corner of the garden, we set off finding things to fill it with. This could include almost anything, as long as it ensured there were lots of nooks and crannies for our insect guests to hide among.

Lengths of hollow bamboo canes were cut to size, holes were drilled in old logs (again endangering my fingertips!), and sticks were collected along with bits of bark, pine cones, beech nut husks and dead leaves. These were then stacked into the frame and we waited for our first guests to arrive.

Not only did we have a great few hours getting good and dirty outside in the fresh air, but we also did our bit to protect our precious insects.

You can do even more to support our fast diminishing insect population by signing up to The Wildlife Trust’s Action For Insects campaign at lancswt.org.uk/wilder-future-campaign/action-insects. You’ll receive a free Action for Insects guide with all the information and support you need to start helping insects where you live.

Get involved

The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey.

It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 Local Nature Reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow. The Trust has 29,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers.

To become a member of the Trust go to the website at lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.

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