Moths and Ducks

We have just had the solstice here, although as often happens with the longest day, the cloud cover was so pronounced it wasn’t particularly obvious! There has been copious rainfall, but at least the ducks are happy. I keep ducks mainly because they are always so enthusiastic and contented with rain and mud, unlike the chickens who get themselves in to a profound sulk. They stand there looking dejected and miserable while the ducks quack joyfully and root around in the borders looking for slugs. I have a blocked gutter on one corner of the house and the water gushes off, so I have put the ducks’ large and unsightly plaster bath there to catch the water for an impromptu pond.

They seem to like it…sort of a rose petal spa. The garden is burgeoning with all the rain, and the bumblebees are loving the comfrey – I think that is getting the most attention of all the plants I have here. The willowherb patch is almost ready to flower. It’s a great plant, for a weed, as the bees love the little pink flowers, finches love the seeds, and one of my favourite moths – the elephant hawkmoth – eats the foliage. Here is the chunky caterpillar looking rather like an elephant’s trunk, hence the name, and one of my illustrations of the impossibly beautiful pink-and-green adult:

I love plants which have plenty of bang for their buck, and appeal to different species and for different reasons. My Verbascum are currently being munched by mullein moth caterpillars but the plants do perfectly well – the tall flower stalks are thick and green, so probably contribute to the plant’s food intake reducing the pressure on the leaves, many of which are shaded.

I must try and do another moth trap when the weather clears up. Moth numbers have decreased dramatically so I am very happy to grow plants that will help them a little bit.

One beetle I have sadly seen very few of this year are cockchafers, or maybugs. Unfortunately the only one I did see had drowned in a dish of water; I’d left it out for the hedgehogs to drink from. It’s never easy…

Last year I saw my first Rose Chafer – such a gorgeous creature. Thankfully here in the UK we seem to have a fairly tolerant approach to these insects, recognising the importance of the chafer larvae and their contribution to nutrient recycling, and suggesting that any damage to petals is outweighed by the benefits of the grubs within the soil biota. From the websites I’ve read, there are less liked over the pond! Frankly I would be more than happy to sacrifice a few rose petals to have some of these beauties in the garden:

Swarm calls have been few and far between this year, as have the calls about other species. I hope this is because people are more informed and less worried about having bees under their shed or decking, or in their flowerpots or flowerbeds rather than there simply being none to report. I have set some dates for Gardening for Bees & Wildlife as I am holding them outside in my garden where we can both learn and watch in real time with examples right there in front of us – and yes, enjoy tea and cake! Please see the link for more details, or book your place below. It’s the perfect antidote to climate anxiety, and a way of showing just how simple but important these measures to help insects really are.

What are you doing in your garden to help insects? We focus a lot on bees and butterflies, but how about moths, or beetles?

3 Replies to “Moths and Ducks”

  1. A pleasure read that post. A ‘rose petal spa’ sounds like a new business! We’ve got lots of lovely Cinnabar Moths in their red and black football strips. I’ve painted the rendering on the end of the house, the Dulux colour is called ‘Brick Dust’ and the moths love basking on it in the morning sun. When we get some… now a lawn cut at the front then back to my woodcut experiment. Stay safe, John

    1. Oh I love cinnabars – and thank you, pleased you enjoyed the post. The ducks seem to like eating the dropped petals 🙂

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