No pesticides needed in my garden to tackle “pests”

After the cold April month with a predominantly Northern wind, I welcomed the warmer weather in May. We also had some much needed rain. Our weather is quite inconsistent these days with highs and lows. The cold spell has resulted in a high number of aphids.

Plants did not grow well and one may be tempted to spray against aphids but in my garden, I never use any chemicals whatsoever. Now, a few weeks later, most of the aphids are gone since their natural predators such as ladybirds have appeared and consumed the aphids. If you have enough diversity in your garden, there will be natural predators to deal with pests. Please bear in mind that aphids themselves are on the menu for so many species.

Harmonia axyridis is an invasive species from Asia and in my garden the most common ladybird i am afraid.

Another so-called pest in the garden is the spindle ermine, Yponomeuta cagnagella. Their only foodplant is the spindle, or Euonymus europaeus.  The moths are eaten by birds, spiders and bats. The caterpillars can envelop the plant in webbing and it looks unsighty. Ichneumonids or ichneumon wasps and birds feed on the larvae.

Again, no need to use pesticides and let nature do what it knows best. Fascinating to me is how a tiny moth was able to locate its foodplant among the thousands of shrubs in gardens. Amazing, isn’t it for such a small creature.

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Native shrubs and trees

A lot has been said about why we should grow native trees and shrubs. However, a wildlife garden with non-native plants can be wonderful for wildlife; we all love lavender and the butterfly bush is popular with all sorts of butterflies.

As foodplants however, native plants really have some benefits. The common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna can be a host plant for over 300 organisms. The flowers provide pollen and nectar for pollinators and the fruits, haws, are important for birds in autumn and winter.

Below one of 5 young hawthorns.

Other trees and shrubs which I have planted are the blackthorns (beware of the suckers!) which is also very spiny and offering food to many moth caterpillars as well as a nesting

place for birds.

Wild privet, when allowed to flower, is attractive to many bumblebees, butterflies and leafcutter bees.

The pricky barberry, Berberis vulgaris offer protection from cats and the flowers offer food to solitary bees and bumblebees.


Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum, is a beautiful native climber. The scent of its flowers is overwhelming. The Garden bumblebee loves the flowers and so do hawk moths. 

The fly honeysuckle,  Lonicera xylosteum is native to a small part of the Netherlands and also popular with bumblebees.


Field rose, Rosa arvensis offer pollen to all sorts of insects. The leaves are very popular with leafcutter bees that use the leaves for their nests.

If you have space, a Prunus avium is a great addition to the garden. The flowers are beautiful and offer food to all sorts of bees.

Hazel, Corylus avellana, looking very pretty with its fresh leaves. The leaves of this shrub are popular with all sorts of insects so well worth planting. 

All my shrubs and trees are locally sourced: in my case, they come from locations where they have been growing for hundreds of years so very adapted to our climate and are grown without pesticides.

Posted in Biodiversity, biodiversity, Biology, butterflies, Ecology, Fruit, Gardening, Gardening for wildlife, Nature, pollination | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A sunny day in February

Just got home from work and walked into the garden. The sun is shining and snowdrops are in full bloom. Galanthus nivalis is the official name for this plant and it is a good early source of pollen and nectar for honeybees. I counted tens of them and after winter, it is such a lovely sight to see the pollinators again.apis-mellifera

Bit difficult to photograph but you can clearly see the clumps of fresh pollen on the bee’s hind legs.


The first signs that the days are lengthening are visible: Flower buds of Pulmonaria montana can be seen here. Pulmonaria are important food sources for queen bumblebees and hairy footed flower bees. pulmonaria-montana

Winter aconites, Eranthis hyemalis brighten up the garden noweranthis-hyemalis

A new addition to the garden is Sanicula europaea, Sanicle. It is a rare plant in our country limited to calcareous woodland soils in the southeastern corner of our country. sanicula-europaea

Large thyme, Thymus pulegioides has kept its leaves. A lovely, aromatic plant which can be easily overgrown by more vigorous plants so one I have to keep an eye on to prevent that from happening.  thymus-pulegioidesThe garden is slowly waking up from hibernation it seems.


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Deadwood in the garden

Deadwood is a complex range of different microhabitats, which evolve over time. Lots of invertebrates feed on dead wood and many fungi depend on it too.


In my garden, I have placed several logs near shrubs and trees. They provide shelter for amphibians, millipedes, centipedes, wood lice, bugs and beetles.

dead wood 1

I noticed several fungi growing on these logs. Deadwood provides habitats for creatures that live, feed or nest in cavities in dead and dying timber. It is a food source for beetles and for fungi and bacteria. In due course, the nutrients in these logs will be recycled and return to the soil and feed the plants and the soil organisms. Deadwood is also a source of organic matter and moisture. Foresters say that “Deadwood is the richest habitat in a healthy forest ” .

Fungi 3Fungi 2

fungi 1


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De wilde plantentuin in juni

Ik ben een groot liefhebber van wilde bloemen. De schoonheid en variatie is enorm. Tevens ben ik geïnteresseerd in ecologie en dan met name de wisselwerking tussen bloemen en bestuivende insecten, die zo boeiend en belangrijk is voor het in stand houden van onze ecosystemen. Om die reden heb ik in de tuin de voorkeur gegeven aan wilde planten want vaak zijn insecten daar mee verbonden: ze leven immers al duizenden jaren samen, denk bijvoorbeeld aan de Citroenvlinder welke alleen zijn eitjes legt op sporkehout of wegedoorn.

Juni is een bijzonder rijke maand qua bloemen en zoveel prachtige soorten staan in bloei dat ik dit even met jullie zou willen delen en wellicht dat zo ook meer mensen wilde planten in hun tuin gaan opnemen.

Wilde cichorei – Cichorium intybus. Een plant welke in de ochtend bloeit, populair bij tronkenbijen en de pluimvoetbij. Hemelsblauwe bloemen.

Cichorium intybus

Verfbrem – Genista tinctoria. Een soort welke alleen stuifmeel levert aan hommels en wat groter bijen zoals behangersbijen. Groeit ook op arme grond.

Genista tinctoria

Stinkende ballote – Ballota nigra. Stinkt niet echt maar ruikt wel sterk, een zeer goede plant voor hommels, andoornbijen en wolbijen. Bloeit erg lang, tot september.

Ballota nigra

Een andere soort welke hommels en andoornbijen aantrekt is de bosandoorn, Stachys sylvatica.

Stachys sylvatica

De beemdkroon is nog zo’n bijenmagneet: Knautia arvensis. Produceert veel nectar.

Knautia arvensis

De Heggenrank en dan met name de mannelijke bloemen zijn erg geliefd bij een groot aantal bijensoorten: honingbijen, hommels, behangersbijen, zandbijen, groefbijen en zo voort.

Megachile centuncularis

De mooie bloemen van de gewone ossentong, Achusa officinalis.

Anchusa officinalis

Ook de rode klaver mag niet ontbreken: Trifolium pratense. Rode klaver is erg belangrijk als stuifmeelleverancier voor hommels: het stuifmeel bevat een hoog percentage eiwitten wat op zijn beurt weer veel essentiële aminozuren bevat.

Trifolium pratense pollen

Klokjes, Campanula soorten zoals hieronder het prachtklokje, zijn erg in trek bij klokjesbijen en behangersbijen.

Campanula persicifolia

Rapunzelklokje is een elegante soort.

Campanula rapunculus


Lathyrus soorten zoals de aardaker – Lathyrus tuberosus, groeien goed op wat vochtige grond, bij mij staan ze in een mengsel van zand en klei langs de vijver.

Lathyrus tuberosus


Een van de beste soorten om bijen aan te trekken en vlinders is de grote centaurie – Centaurea scabiosa. Groeit goed op droge en kalkrijke grond.

Centaurea scabiosa

Hieronder samen groeiend met de schitterende beemdooievaarsbek:

Geranium pratense and Centaurea scabiosa


Op een zonnige dag is het ontzettend genieten: hommels, vlinders, bijen en allerlei insecten bezoeken de tuin, vogels vinden er voedsel en zo creëer je een een mini natuurreservaat in de eigen achtertuin.

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Solitary bees in the garden – June

We had a rather cold spring and June was not much better than May but the weather is improving. The Mason bees look somewhat faded and their time is nearly over, now the summer bees will emerge.

Dasypoda hirtipes is a beautiful species and in my garden they feed on knapweed, scabious and chicory. Below are two males foraging on scabious (Knautia arvensis)

Dasypoda hirtipes males

The females look different and they have golden pollen-collecting hairs on the hind tibiae. This female was quite cold so I could pick her up gently and take some pictures.

Dasypoda hirtipes female 1

The Fork-tailed flower bee is a solitary bee with a very long tongue: they love woundworts, betony, wood sage, black horehound, all these plants are found in my garden. They are difficult to photograph as they fly very fast but this male was resting on a leaf, cleaning his tongue.

Anthophora furcata male


Anthophora furcata

Wool carder bees are fascinating creatures, the males are territorial, defending a patch of horehound, betony or woundwort. This male was using the bee hotel to sleep.

anthidium manicatum 1


anthidium manicatum 4

Leafcutter bees are summer bees, they cut disks from roses in my garden which they use for their nests. Picture below is a male Megachile willughbiella.

Megachile willughbiella

Another species which one can see in the garden is Megachile centuncularis

Below a female with a beautiful yellow scopa, which they use to collect pollen.

Megachile centuncularis

Of course, there are many bumblebees in the garden as well, as the garden has been designed to attract a variety of bees. Red clover is very popular with bumblebees and a good source of pollen with high levels of protein and essential amino acids. I can sit for hours and study these beautiful and fascinating insects.

Trifolium pratense pollen

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Brimstone butterflies in the garden

Brimstone male butterfly

I turned my garden into a habitat for bees and butterflies. Albeit on a small scale, it is a wildlife garden. I work mostly with native plants with a few exceptions  such as Butterfly bush and Lavender.

Butterflies regularly visit the garden but I wanted to encourage them to breed. I knew that the Brimstone butterfly,  Gonepteryx rhamni,  is present in this part of our country so I decided to grow the only foodplants this species of butterfly uses: alder buckthorns and purging buckthorns.

Below: alder buckthorn ~Rhamnus frangula / Frangula alnus

Alder buckthorn rhamnus frangula

It was a sunny day in April a few days ago when all of a sudden I saw a female near the alder buckhorn bushes and I could see her laying eggs!  Interesting to see that she preferred alder buckthorns and not purging buckthorn which is the other foodplant the Brimstone butterfly uses for her caterpillars.

Below: purging buckthorn ~ Rhamnus cathartica

Rhamnus cathartica flower buds

By the way, both species of buckthorns are good plants for many pollinators. The flowers are rather small but rich in nectar.

Below: Female Brimstone laying eggs on young shoots of alder buckthorns

Gonepteryx rhamni

Gonepteryx rhamni b

Gonepteryx rhamni egg

Photo above: the tiny little thing on the right hand side is an egg, difficult to photograph though.

This really proves that if you create the right conditions, butterflies will breed in the garden.

Brimstone butterfly

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