What garden wildlife is doing now
Find out what garden wildlife is up to in June
It's high summer in the garden. Our borders are packed with flowers and alive with the buzzing of insects, our trees rustle with the lushest of leaves, our long grass is teeming with baby frogs and toads, and newly fledged birds hang clumsily from the feeders or sit on the lawn begging parents for another mouthful.
If it's dry in your garden, continue leaving water for small mammals such as hedgehogs, and use grey water to keep plants hydrated and producing nectar. Fill gaps in the border with pollinator-friendly annuals such as cosmos, and plan ahead for late summer by planting heleniums and Verbena bonariensis.
When pruning and tidying the garden, take care to ensure eggs and larvae don't end up on the compost heap with the plants. Many species, including ladybirds and the green shield bug, lay eggs on the underside of plant leaves. If you find eggs on a pruned leaf, simply take a clothes peg and clip it back on to the plant you removed it from. The eggs will hatch and the larvae will be able to eat – whether that's aphids for the ladybirds or plant sap for the shield bugs. A little extra effort from you will help insects complete their lifecycles.
How to help wildlife in your garden
- Wildlife gardening
- Attract birds to your garden
- Make a bee-friendly garden
- Alan Titchmarsh on gardening for wildlife – podcast
Leafcutter bees are starting to nest
Like red mason bees, which typically nest from April to early June, leafcutter bees use bee hotels. Active from June to August, they lay eggs in individual cells lined with the leaves of roses, wisteria, beech and other 'floppy-leaved' plants. They do no harm at all to their host plants – look out for perfectly cut holes with smooth edges, you may be lucky enough to see a bee carrying a rolled up piece of leaf beneath her body, hopefully back to your bee hotel.
Green shield bug nymphs appear on plants
Shield bugs are so named because their wings are shaped a bit like shields. There are several types in the UK, the most common of which is the green shield bug (Palomena prasina). A true bug, it feeds on plant sap although causes no damage to plants and should be welcomed as part of the garden ecosystem.
After laying eggs, the nymphs hatch now and may be spotted as small, almost turtle-like bugs on the underside of leaves. The nymphs go through five stages of growth, known as instars, eventually becoming adults by autumn.
House sparrows are feeding young
While single-brooded birds like blue tits have finished nesting for the season, house sparrows are still raising young, with many pairs starting a new nest as the young from the previous brood fledge – the male continues to feed the fledglings while the female prepares for the next batch.
House sparrows can have up to four broods per year, though normally two or three. They usually nest from April to August although in milder regions they can breed all year round. They nest in loose colonies, often in holes in buildings and bespoke nest boxes, but also in bushes. Nests are built from grass and lined with feathers, and the female lays up to five eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs, which hatch after 11 to 14 days.
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Hedgehogs are giving birth
After mating last month, female hedgehogs should be giving birth around now. She makes a nest using a variety of materials, including grass, moss and dandelion leaves, and gives birth to up to seven hoglets. She cares for them alone, feeding them milk, and leaves the nest to forage for food for herself. This is the only time of year when a hedgehog seen out during the day is 'normal'. Days are long and sometimes dry, and lactating females need to drink and eat a lot to produce milk for their hoglets, so may leave the nest at all hours.
After a few weeks, the young will start to leave the nest with their mum, and learn which food is suitable for eating. At this stage they are still also drinking their mum's milk. By August they will be fully weaned and leave the nest to live solitary lives.
Rose chafers are visiting roses
The rose chafer (Cetonia aurata) is a large, beautiful beetle with iridescent green wing cases. Traditionally viewed as a pest, it's a joy to have in the garden and causes very little harm to roses.
Adult rose chafers fly among the garden border and feed on flowers, particularly dog roses but they may visit cultivated roses, too, along with other flowers like bramble and honeysuckle. After mating, the female lays eggs in the ground and the larvae feed on decaying vegetation – they're often found in compost heaps. The larvae remain underground for several years and then pupate in autumn. They hibernate as adults over winter and emerge the following spring.
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