Bug hunt at Gardeners' World Live

by Richard Jones

Even though it's been raining here at Gardeners' World Live, we've been on a bit of a bug hunt...

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Richard Jones being filmed at Gardeners' World LiveEven though it's been raining here at Gardeners' World Live, we've been on a bit of a bug hunt...

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Gardeners' World Web User 13/06/2008 at 11:12

Why are stag beetles considered to be beneficial insects? Do they help gardeners?

Gardeners' World Web User 15/06/2008 at 21:14

The good thing about entomology is that you can pop a bug into almost anything. When working with children I use my accumulating supply of empty plastic pots that once contained humus, taramasalata, olives, yogurt, cream, margarine, soft cheese, Chinese takeaways, urine samples, and even the children's snack Tupperware boxes. But when I'm working I always use glass tubes, because you can see into them much more clearly with a hand lens. These I get from biological suppliers such as Watkins and Doncaster, who supply them in various different sizes. I usually use the small 'alcohol' tubes because they have a reinforced neck. This is because I often have to bite out the stopper in my teeth whilst holding a wriggling insect in my free hand. Ordinary glass tubes have a habit of shattering in my teeth, cutting my lips.

The ones you can see on the video are ancient plastic-topped bottles I picked up from a second-hand supplier many years ago and which I always carry about in my back-pack in a small metal tube that once contained vanilla pods. Insects breathe very slowly so there is always plenty of air for them even in very small containers. But they do suffer in confined spaces so if you want to examine them in a glass tube pop in a piece of tissue paper so they do not get covered in condensation and also pop in some leaf so they do not get too dehydrated. This also gives them something to cling onto while you peer through the lens. The ladybirds would have been quite OK for several hours, but a bumblebee would not have been very happy at all.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/06/2008 at 17:06

I have recently found lots of small black beetles on my rosemary hedge. Is there a pesticide I can use to get rid of them?

Gardeners' World Web User 17/06/2008 at 10:25

You probably could find a pesticide to kill the beetles, but it would also kill the ladybirds, bees, hoverflies and all other beneficial insects in your garden, not to mention the odd hedgehog or two. And then of course the birds and the bats would have less food to eat so they'd suffer too. Why can't you just live with the beetles? Why does everyone have to go killing everything all the time?

Gardeners' World Web User 17/06/2008 at 21:47

Stagbeetles don't have to help gardeners to be welcome in gardens. They just have to be appreciated for the wonderful handsome and awe-inspiring creatures that they are. Stag beetles certainly do no harm in the garden and, in fact, most wildlife (and that usually means mainly insects) also do no harm. Only a tiny proportion ever reach the annoying level of 'pest' status, and even these can usually be tolerated in small numbers.

As I said in my video blog, I feel very privileged to have stag beetles in my garden. They are monstrous wonders, especially when flying. They are now much rarer than even, say, 30 years ago, and the only place in the country they regularly turn up is south-east London. Look at map 7 on page 8 of the report on stag beetles prepared by the People's Trust for Endangered Species and you will see the single red spot showing the greatest numbers of stag beetles seen 1998-2002. That's where I live and I love it.

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