An estimated 121 bird species are predicted to become extinct in the future, and experts put this down to the lack of biodiversity caused by food production.

But what can we do to attract more biodiversity in our gardens and save the birds?

Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert from Wyevale Garden Centres gave us his best advice on choosing plants to help attract the insects that birds need to thrive.

"Biodiversity is essential to life on this planet, but due to food demands and production methods it’s sadly decreasing and affecting our wildlife population in the process. We can help to encourage biodiversity by being conscious of the plants we put in our garden.

Insects aren’t always pests and they can actually have a positive impact on our gardens by providing food for birds. We, therefore, need to grow specific plants to help attract these insects, in order to provide a plentiful food source for birds. Instead of our gardens being just ornamental, we can start using them to cultivate a healthy environment for our planet’s wildlife. In this article, I’ll be sharing the best plants to attract different types of insects to your garden.

Tree-dwelling insects

Tree-dwelling insects include caterpillars, aphids, beetles, scales, and some insect larvae along with arachnids such as spiders. Having these in your garden provides a great food source for canopy birds and woodpeckers.

You can plant certain types of tree which attract these kinds of insects, including beech, oak, wild cherry and crab apple. Hawthorn bushes are great for birds since they attract a lot of different insects and, because of the protection from their thorns, they also provide great nesting places.

Hawthorn berries

Ground-dwelling insects

Ground-dwelling insects include ants, flies, grasshoppers, beetles, bees, wasps, crickets, butterflies, moths and caterpillars as well as earthworms and spiders. These can attract a wide range of birds that you usually see foraging for food on or in the ground.

Plants such as black-eyed Susan, blazing star, blue wild indigo, goldenrod, and mountain mint all attract ground insects. Water and mud also provide great homes for them, so ponds can be great for bringing more wildlife to your garden.

Flying insects

Some birds, such as warblers, catch their food while flying, so it’s important that you pick plants to entice flying insects such as flies, dragonflies, mosquitoes, moths and wasps. Some of these insects are also much more than just a food source for birds: bees and butterflies are important to maintaining a balanced ecosystem. This is because they’re both pollinators and allow plants to reproduce, creating more homes for birds and the insects that they feed off.

Since flying insects can move around more freely, a mixture of shrubs and plants can provide great homes for them. Plants which attract these insects include bee balm, black-eyed Susan, blazing star, goldenrod, New England aster and mountain mint. I’d also suggest planting climbers like trumpet creeper, or shrubs such as wild blackberry and blueberry bushes, the fruit of which also offers a great food source for birds and people alike! 

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Bees

Bees are pollinators and are hugely important to our environment but, unfortunately, they are currently under threat from our agricultural practices. With this loss, we risk a huge knock-on effect to our ecosystem. The best thing you can do to attract bees to your garden is to plant flowers which are rich in pollen and nectar, such as honeysuckle or crocuses. Avoid plants that don’t have much pollen, as these don’t really provide much for bees. Flowers with long, tunnel-like petals are often too narrow for the bees to get inside of, so these are best avoided too.

Wildflowers are great for attracting bees and, as their name suggests, they don’t take too much looking after either. For spring, you can plant trees such as horse-chestnut or flowering cherry trees, which look incredibly pretty with their delicate petals, or flowers such as spring crocuses.

In summer, sunflowers, fuchsias, sweet Williams and oriental poppies are all great at attracting wildlife and adding a splash of summery colour to your garden. For autumn, Michaelmas daisies, open-flowered chrysanthemums and dahlias are perfect for attracting bees and keeping your garden blooming in the greyer months. In winter, snowdrops, winter-flowering crocuses and hellebore will add some cheer and will keep any surviving bees happy while it’s chilly outside.

Sweet William

Butterflies

Butterflies are also good pollinators, so growing plants to attract them is very similar to attracting bees. Attracting butterflies will also increase the number of caterpillars in your garden, which is a great source of food for those birds that feed off tree-dwelling insects.

Whilst many different butterfly species like different plants, there are a few general things you can do to entice them into your garden. Plants such as aubrieta, sweet rocket, sweet violet, and wild primrose are great for the spring.

Summer is the best time for butterflies and there are so many different things you can plant to attract them to your garden. Varieties such as butterfly bush, candytuft, chrysanthemum, cornflower, French marigold, hebe, lavender, marjoram, thyme and rosemary are all great for butterflies while it’s warm and sunny.

Like bees, butterflies are also fond of Michaelmas daisies in the autumn, along with pale pink ice plants and red valerian. To keep them going from spring to autumn, it’s best to plant a mixture so that there’s always something blooming throughout the seasons. Plant your flowers in blocks to make the most of colour and scent to entice the insects."

Click here for a fantastic guide to butterflies and how you can help them

We can easily support our bird numbers by growing specific flowers and plants which attract insects, a common food source for birds. Try to pick flowers which are rich in pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies, supporting their numbers whilst also helping these plants to reproduce. One important thing to remember is to avoid using pesticides, as this will only kill off the insects you’re trying to attract.


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