Insects & bugs are as important as elephants (without the pin-head sized midge, cocoa flowers could not pollinate, and that means no chocolate). Although the flour beetle larva can digest plastic, we can’t use them to do this, as it would kill bees. Like worms, insects can transform dead plants and animals into rich black soil. According to National Geographic, without bugs – we might all be dead.
Insects in England won’t harm you. We have over 25,000 types. A true insect has 6 legs, 3 body sections (head, thorax, abdomen) and most can fly. Meet the locals:
- Bees (read how to save them). Bee houses are not usually a good idea, as bees get covered in mites and can’t fly.
- Waspinator looks like a brown paper bag, to deter territorial wasps. Avoid citronella sprays/candles near pets.
- Read the post on helping spiders! Most have never been outside and are more scared of you, than you are of them.
- Ants are attracted to protein foods (if they have eggs) and sweet foods. They disappear when the weather cools. Anthills aerate soil and ants provide food for birds, by protecting caterpillars due to sticky honeydew they secrete. Spraying anything will kill them, just grow mint (in a pot so it does not get out of control). Ants dislike the scent, so will move on. Don’t grow mint near cats, see the other pet-toxic herbs.
- Ladybirds, butterflies & moths are all insects.
- Woodlice. Are nice! Just leave them be. They only eat decaying wood, and love compost heaps.
- Stag beetles are endangered. They eat decaying wood and are the big grubs you find in the soil. Use no-dig gardening.
- Silverfish are nocturnal, living in damp houses, sheds and garages. To remove humanely, cover a glass jar with sandpaper (so they can access) then fill with flour and check regularly, as they will go inside to eat. Then move to a shed or outbuilding. Earwigs can live outside in humid conditions, they like decaying wood and leaf litter.
- Crickets & grasshoppers are insects. Did you know crickets can tell you the temperature? Count the chirps in 15 seconds, then add 37.
- Dragonflies (open wings), damsonflies (closed wings) & mayflies (three tails) are found near ponds. The latter is sometimes confused with mosquitoes (attracted by stagnant water: a good reason to use a secure water butt that is safe for pets & children).
How to Naturally Deter Bugs
- Don’t leave sweet foods inside or outside. Wrap and dispose of anything sugary, including fizzy drinks. Use door screens.
- To avoid ticks, keep to paths and avoid long grass. Wear long sleeves, and keep shirt/trousers tucked in. Light clothing will help you spot ticks before they bite you. Inspect dogs (and you) after walking. If you can’t pull out the head yourself, a vet needs to remove ticks.
- Change mattress and vacuum regularly, to avoid bed bugs. To avoid on pets, boil wash everything (avoid essential oils). Signs of fleas, mites or bedbugs are poo in fur/bedding, crusting on fur, scratching, blood on bed and almond smell.
- Most bugs don’t like citrus or mint, so put fruits/mint in a bowl of water and leave nearby. Avoid essential oils near cats, ferrets, birds and reptiles. See other toxic houseplants to avoid.
How to Stop Getting Bitten
Avoid toxic DEET repellents. Citronella candles and scents should not be used or burned near pets.
- Naturally Bug-Free includes 90 recipes by a herbalist for insect sprays, body balms and herbal sachets to deter moths. Also make carpet powders to repel fleas & ants, and repellents to keep the pantry free (avoid essential oils and Borax near pets).
- Humane Critter Control is a guide to keep unwelcome visitors out of your yard, to garden with heart. Safely deter with these intelligent tips that deter bugs without harm. The Humane Gardener is another good book of solutions. Read make your garden safe for pets, to know toxic plants to avoid (also avoid cocoa mulch, pine mulch and fresh compost near pets).
- The Bug-Free Organic Garden is by Anna Hess, who has over 10 years of experience growing her own veggies, and sums up knowledge that includes succession planting, choosing resistant-plant varieties, shielding plants with row covers and timing plantings.
Brilliant Books on Bugs
See make your garden safe for pets to know toxic plants to avoid near furry friends (also avoid cocoa mulch, pine mulch and fresh compost near pets, use humane safe slug & snail deterrents and use no-dig garden methods to protect earthworms).
Got a little David Attenborough? GeoSafari Junior Binoculars are lightweight and comfy, with a wrap-around soft eye section that blocks out peripheral vision with ease. For 3 years plus. Don’t let children examine insects through a magnifying glass, it reflects the sun’s rays and kills them.
- Insect Detective is a children’s guide to insects hiding in your garden. Remember – if if it doesn’t have 6 legs – it’s not an insect!
- Minibeasts is a fun guide for children, introducing little ladybirds to slimy snails. Find out where minibeasts live, which ones taste with their feet and which ones love cabbages?
- Extraordinary Insects charts the history of insects who moved to dry land, and outnumber grains of sand on all the world’s beaches. Insects even inspire engineers, with their flying techniques.
- The Book of Brilliant Bugs takes a journey through the forest floor and to deep caves and the ocean to meet insects, arachnids, worms and mollusks. From dancing bees to cartwheeling spiders, from butterfly athletes to the beetles that eat poo. Includes bug relatives like slimy slugs, web-spinning spiders and scuttling centipedes.
- Buzz, Sting, Bite meets bugs that live in caves and Himalayas, inside computers, in hot springs and in the ears and nostrils of walruses. They even live in baptismal fonts to oil puddles. Learn of insects with ears on their knees, eyes on their penises and tongues under their feet! The Chinese stick insect is longer than your forearm. And the Goliath beetle weighs roughly the same as a blackbird.