Wasps often get a bad rap. While gardeners and nature lovers have welcomed bees, wasps are often sprayed, chased, and misunderstood. Yet, according to an article by Emily Osterloff for the Natural History Museum, wasps are successful managers of the insect populations in gardens. Without their presence, gardeners would be battling far higher numbers of caterpillars, aphids, and spiders.
In the same article, Dr Gavin Broad of The Natural History Museum (NHM) explains the adult wasps’ need for sugar. While their offspring feed on insects, adult wasps need nectar. They visit flowers with accessible nectar. Although they’re not a specialist pollinator like some bees, they pollinate some flowers thanks to their nectar collections. Gardeners, don’t shoo away the wasp, who could be pollinating your herbs, flowers, and fruits, alongside bees and hoverflies.
This urgent need for sugar is why, at this time of year (late summer), wasps stray from the flowers and buzz around pub gardens, picnics, and kitchens. They’re not after you. You’ve got this paradise of sugar. They’re after your cake, your pint…sugar please guys, sugar needed urgently.
Here a desperate adult wasp popped into the kitchen and inspected every single cupboard, so I gave it a little sugar water outside (below).
They can seem alarming, if they’re protecting their nest or if you’ve ever been stung. Their bold search around picnics and pubs can create conflict with humans, as can their choice of nesting sites. Check out my page about Wildlife Gardening with Wasps for tips on managing wasps in a wildlife-friendly way. Yes, they are misunderstood, but they are a vital species in our wildlife ecosystems. Dr Broad at the NHM also said if wasps are not doing well, it’s a sign the natural area isn’t either. Give them a space in a wild part of your plot/garden (away from your home/space), like you would with bees. Give a wasp some flowers, a wild home and… your sugar.
A wildlife-friendly garden includes, where possible, space for frogs, toads, and newts. If you make room for these amphibian little fellows, you could get a helpful pest manager in return, thanks to their appetite for slugs, snails, and insects. Plenty of gardens are host to frogs and toads without the presence of a large pond. Check out these 6 steps to encourage them into your garden or plot.
1. Add shrubs to your garden
Give these quiet frogs and toads somewhere they can live, hide, and shelter. The same goes for most mammals and birds: they need places they can dive into for cover, and they need a spot where they can make a home and feel sure they’ll remain undisturbed. Shrubs of varying sizes are perfect. Examples of shrubs in this wildlife garden include euonymus, hebes, buddleia, box hedging, cranesbill geraniums, and laurels. Choose shrubs which carpet the soil, so that small amphibians can hide easily underneath the foliage.
A Home for Frogs and Toads
2. Add pots or logs behind a shrub, shed, or greenhouse
Amphibians like damp places. These are easily created in a garden using upturned logs, or upturned pots. Alternatively, you can get ‘frogilos’, which are purpose-made terracotta pots with a hole for a door (a little froggy bungalow). If using pots, opt for a more natural (ie breathable) material like terracotta so air and water flows through it. Our frogs have made the most of a pile of leftover terracotta pots behind a greenhouse. The pots are damp and covered in fallen leaves, producing this slightly wild, untouched area that clearly the frogs prefer.
You do not actually need a pond to attract frogs and toads….but it helps them if you can add a little one! It depends what your garden’s neighbouring environment contains. For example, in the suburban garden I currently share, there is no pond. Nevertheless, there are at least 2 resident frogs every summer. This is because the garden is full of food and shrubs and there are ponds in neighbouring gardens.
Although we do not have a pond, we have water bowls around the garden, where birds and mammals can take a drink. The frogs have been spotted having a little dip in them. Add as much water as you can, even if only a bowl or shallow pot. Garden ponds have been a lifesaver for UK amphibians, according to YPTE’s amphibian factsheet.
Add water to help amphibians
3. Add water bowls. A pet water bowl is suitable. These could be around 12cm diameter and around 3-5cm deep so a frog could sit in it and cool off in a hot summer.
4. If there’s no pond in any neighbouring garden or land, make your own mini pond. Use a small pot, a washing-up bowl, or a porcelain sink. Place it in the soil, or in your grass. Make sure it is shallow enough for the frogs and toads to escape. They need a ramp – otherwise, if it is too big for them to jump out, they can get stuck in water.
Food for Frogs and Toads
Attract insects, worms, slugs, and snails to your garden. Yes, I know. I’m a gardener encouraging you to encourage slugs! But your garden will look really favourable to amphibians if it is a veritable café laden with an insect menu. If you kill off your slugs or insects, you’ve wiped the menu board clean and may not attract a froggy friend. Plant a variety of pollinator-friendly flowers. Add lettuces, dahlias, marigolds, hostas – anything slugs and snails love. Add herbs and nasturtiums to attract aphids and insects. Plant these in a section near to your amphibian home – give them a lunch next to their log home or their frogilo.
5. Add flowers and plants that attract slugs, snails, and insects
A Wildlife Highway
6. Connect your garden to the next garden or green space
Make it easier for the walking wildlife to reach your garden by connecting to the wild highway. This means a gap under your gate or a hole at the bottom of your hedge. If you have fencing or a wall, help them get either under (tunnel, gap), over (ramp, if fence or wall is small), or through (hole). This is such a valuable action on the part of garden owners. By doing this you are helping increase the size of amphibians’ and small mammals’ habitat. You could also help keep them away from roads by encouraging them to walk through connected gardens. Toads are particularly vulnerable to road collisions as they follow traditional migratory routes that may have since been taken over by cars. Froglife even has a Toads on Roads project to raise awareness of the issue and set up toad patrols.