April sees more insects on the wing, including more species of bumblebee, ground-nesting mining bees, and butterflies, moths and hoverflies. You’ll also spot queen wasps emerging from hibernation, which do a fantastic job of keeping garden pests under control, and should be welcomed much more into our gardens.
How to help wildlife in your garden:
- Garden habits you need to break in order to help wildlife
- 10 ways to work with nature on your veg patch
- Wildlife-friendly plants for shade
- Fergus Garrett on wildilfe at Great Dixter
Hedgehogs are waking up
Hedgehogs should be out and about now, building up reserves lost during their winter sleep – do leave them out meaty dog or cat food, or biscuits, along with a dish of water, which can really help them get into shape for breeding. They nest in dense undergrowth such as bramble thickets and open compost heaps. Ensuring they have a safe spot to nest in your garden will dramatically help them have a successful breeding year.
Garden birds are feeding their young
Nesting is well underway for garden birds, which should be scouring every leaf for caterpillars, aphids and other insects to feed their young. One baby blue tit needs to eat 100 caterpillars a day for the first three weeks of its life. Why not plant more native plants, such as foxglove, primrose, hawthorn and hazel, to attract more natural food for them?
Red mason bees are building nests
Red mason bees (Osmia bicornis) are on the wing now. They readily nest in bee hotels, making individual nest cells using mud gathered from gardens. If it’s dry, you could help them hugely by leaving a little dish of mud, or using water from your water butt to keep a patch of ground well-watered. Look out for them rolling the mud beneath their abdomens and carrying it back to their nests.
Tadpoles are growing up fast
Tadpoles are increasing in size. Frog tadpoles change from black to brown with gold speckles, while toad tadpoles remain black. In southern parts of the UK they will soon be developing legs – the front ones come first, followed by the back legs. But only once the tail has been absorbed do baby frogs make the big step from water to land. Find out how to create a wildlife pond for a garden or a mini wildlife pond where space is limited.
Queen wasps are keeping busy
Queen wasps emerge from hibernation and start making embryo paper nests with just six cells, using wood scraped from fence panels or tree trunks. She lays six eggs and then gathers food for them – caterpillars, aphids, thrips and other garden ‘pests’. Once the six wasps have metamorphosed into adult worker wasps, they forage for food while the queen stays in the nest and lays more eggs.
Wasps consume an astonishing amount of garden ‘pests’ each year, ensuring our plants are much less nibbled than they would be. Next time you see one, see if it’s carrying anything in its mandibles – it could be a large juicy caterpillar, which it’s taking back to feed the grubs in the nest.