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Homeschool Garden Club - Attract Beneficial Insects into Your Garden

We have chosen Butterflies as our animal of focus this year. This means we will continue with our focus on bring bees in to our gardens but laying on top of that with beneficial insect strategies. Although the weather this week is not really conducive to thinking about warm days observing these tiny fascinating creatures, we are looking forward. Well done, to everyone who contributed to the discussion and put forth your ideas in the debate.

Here at our Homeschool Garden Club we understand just how much nature does a lot to pollinate our fruits and vegetables, It is impossible to measure just how much valuable work these insect do in our Homeschool Garden.

When I started learning to garden and growing for the kitchen, garden books had whole chapters on how to get rid of the insects found within the garden. Instead they now promote living with both the good and the bad in the garden. Allowing the wanted insects to take care fo the unwanted ones. I for one love the humble ladybird as an invited guest, where as the aphids they feed upon we don't like, so much. Making an insect hotel is a great way of achieving a good supply of helpful insects to eat the pests.

Everything needs shelter at some point in its lifecycle and little cracks and crevices in a insect hotel provides that over wintering safe place for the beneficial ones.

Why Make Your Own?

While ready-made insect hotels are available to buy – they cost money and that is something we are looking not so spend. One of the goals of our homeschool community is to save the pennies where ever we can.

It is the beginning of the autumn term and we are back together so we can start by looking out for free material and sharing out any resources we have too much of with others. Start collecting sticks, twigs, hollow plant stems, broken bamboo canes we used for support. We will come together to build a Insect hotel before the half term.

How to Build an Insect Hotel.

The simplest shape is a square and a ready made wooden box stuffed without found materials will do just as well and anything that the garden centre might sell you. You will need to make sure that this is then placed in an area of the garden that that sheltered so that the Hotel is not soaked every time it rains. Putting a waterproof cover of old tiles or the felt you need for guinea pigs and rabbit hutches, over the top of it will help. Then put it near a hedge or pond area where the local wide life can get to it easily with out breaking cover and be picked off as dinner.

Different insets will need different habitats so you need a selection of material to stuff the Hotel with. if your Hotel is big enough you can layer each materal of sections with different materials.

Holes drilled in to logs attract solitary bees and wasps, as this offers safe places to lay their eggs. You can use some left over wood from out Design and Technology projects and from the recycled pallets we use to make raised beds with. I have the drill bits for the different size holes needs to attract different species to the holes.

Lots of you live out in the county and managing woodland, be it tress or bushes is part of the job list though the year. Making a log stack is perfect for wood-boring beetles who larvae feed on the old wood. Once again, pay attention to where you stack, it needs to be nice a dry to attract centipedes (who we like because they eat slugs), and insets from the leaf little layer like millipedes and woodlice (which are a great source of food for birds), and spiders who hunt all sorts of unwanted insects for us.

We all can collect and share out the twigs, sticks and hollow stems (these we will get as we start tidying up the Homeschool Garden ready for winer. We want to encourage ground beetles as they eat the aphids, and the ladybirds or ladybugs as our Homeschool learner in South Carolina calls them. We also want hoverflies, who work twice as hard in our garden as a pollinator and an aphid eater.

As we tidy up the garden and we take down the supports, we can recycle the bamboo canes which are broken or too short to reuse.

Any straw left over form the strawberries can be used up in both the hedgehog house who eat the slugs and snails but we can sue it to make another insect attractive area. The straw will attach the lacewing, who eat a large number of different pests in the green like aphis, scale insects and caterpillars.

We do want butterflies in the garden, we just voted to make them our target animal to attract this year but we don't want to be over run with them - especial if we like to grow cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, kale, tulips and horseradish. We need the caterpillars who eat the leaves and roots of native grasses and plants, the plants we would call weeds - like docks, brambles, dandelions and nettles. It is all about balance!


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