Helping wildlife as far as you can

12 March 2013

Stuck inside with a dodgy ankle on cold and snowy (!) day, I’m in a philosophical mood, thinking about why we do what we do for wildlife. A lot of us might identify with being called a wildlife supporter, but it’s a term which covers a very wide range of attitudes to wildlife. People feed the birds in their gardens, but get cross when the bigger birds take more than their “fair share”, and some like to see butterflies flitting around their garden but object to caterpillars eating the leaves of their plants, or say butterflies are lovely, but they don’t like moths. The one consistent thing about human beings is that they are not consistent.

Left: nasturtium. Right: caterpillars of the Large White on a nasturtium leaf

Left: nasturtium. Right: caterpillars of the Large White on a nasturtium leaf

We all need to find the place on the helping-wildlife spectrum where we are comfortable – there is no perfect answer : even if you let your garden “go back to nature”  you will be helping some species, but making life impossible for others. If you left your garden alone, leaving it to become a tangle of bushes and trees, that would help species that like bushes and trees, so many of the moths should do quite well, but it would not suit species that need meadows, so goodbye to a fair number of butterflies. So: don’t fret that you have to let your garden go wild to attract wildlife – you don’t,  just do what you are comfortable with: even doing a bit is better than doing nothing, and as you come to appreciate the increased wildlife in your garden, you may find you are willing to do more. Getting older helps, too – you are more likely to want to sit down with a cup of tea and look at the wildlife than be energetically tidying the garden all the time!

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