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On World Rewilding Day.. Why not try a spot of rebugging

We can all get rewilding this year.. Hope into action is the theme of World Rewilding Day and supporting rewilding organisations, with your time or money or power, to enhance local wild areas, is vital.. But you can also do a bit of rewilding by rebugging in your nearby spaces..

Fivespot ladybird overwintering in a nut shell.. Lucky no-one cleared it away…

Most of us don’t have large estates or farms to make wilder or rewild completely, with beavers or wolves😏. But many of us do have window ledges, gardens, yards, green verges, scrubby spaces and parks nearby. If we make these seriously nature friendly and diverse – we will be creating:

  • Critical green corridors allowing insects and other wildlife to travel across an area and find new places to live
  • Refuges for insects and birds to hide from predators or unfriendly environments
  • Places for a rest and to recover
  • Places for wild beings to find food – be it flowering plants for the bees and butterflies, seeds for the ants, or leaf litter for the worms and springtails…
  • Places to mate and to make nests for eggs, and for young to emerge safely. 

A bit of wildness can do so much. Research is showing just how important urban spaces and natural green corridors – like verges, bushes, trees and hedges – are. If the space is dull monoculture grass in soil that’s definitely better than concrete or tarmac👍. But they can be so much more and rebugging can even save you time and money.

What to do

For instance.. mowing the garden. Cut right back on that….just mow a bit.. Or not at all.. leaving the grass and flower seeds in the soil to grow into the great habitat they can be. And you save effort and money.. 

Try not to be neat. Be messy. Messy means diversity, it means habitats, it means resilience. Don’t plant rows of one plant, mix it up, multicrop your food plot. You get more food variety, more habitats fir bugs includung useful bugs lime pest predators, and it will confuse the pests you might want to avoid.

Leaving log piles, however small, can provide a fabulous food and home for beetle grubs, wood wasps, woodlice and much more.. Even a hedgehog if it’s in the right place.

Wildflower areas and flower bushes will mean food and shelter for moths, bees, beetles.. You could sow some native wildflower seeds on road verges or green space nearby. And then tell the council to mow at the right time so the flowers can grow and set seeds. The Wildlife Trusts , BugLife and other wildlife groups have loads of tips on gardening for nature. 

Ponds too, however small, can make a huge difference as watering holes for all and habitat for those laying eggs. Insects such as dragonflies and some hoverflies spend much of their life in freshwater as larvae… eating and getting fat. I made a teeny pond (from an old fridge drawer) and a wolf spider was seen drinking from it in no time. 

If you need tips there are loads of free resources, posters, and guides online. Your local wildlife trust will be running events here you can learn more, get involved on helping nature thrive locally. There are more ideas here and in my book too. And communities working together can share the load and build connections, friendships and more. A great new charity I’m a trustee of – Natural Neighbours – is working to support people who want their homes and workplaces to work in harmony to create wildlife-rich neighbourhoods. Worth supporting that aim!

Invertebrates, like fungi, are the glue that holds much of nature together. But habitat fragmentation – where they have to live in ever smaller islands surrounded by seas of concrete or monocultures – means they are stuck and populations stagnate. 

Give them a chance to move around, migrate, eat, rest, mate, nest, shelter and you are making a difference. On rewilding day that’s something to celebrate.

If you are a farmer or grower, well there is much you can do and the new invertebrate resources, such as on integrated pest management, from Nature Friendly Farming Network are great.

Finally another rebugging thing we need more of is to rebug attitudes.. Let someone, children especially, know how critical nature is.. how stunning bugs are and just how important making space for the smaller creatures is… on your doorstep.  Show them a beautiful photo of an invertebrate from your green space. Personally I find the nursery web spider as stunning as the wolf..

On World Rewilding Day 2024, with the theme #HopeIntoAction, I pray you too feel hopeful, planning some rebugging and sharing the love.

A beautiful Nursery Web Spider in a park near me..
Latest news and blogs on rebugging Tips and Ideas

Rebugging with children

This blog is all about rebugging the planet with children. I look at why it’s fun, and also vital to get children rebugging in families and at school, and I’ve provided a list of activities you can start with and resources from great organisations.

Why get rebugging with children at home or in a school?

Children are a ready-made interested audience, finding invertebrates intriguing, ambiguous and they usually want to know more. Their tiny size and being so different to the cuddle pets they know… This creates huge opportunity for fun and learning.. It means any activities are likely to be interesting for them and you. Always a good start.

There are also so many ways to build children’s skills especially if you are out in nature. You could be counting legs or ants, drawing and creating, looking and observing, staying still. It will lead to questioning, telling stories, and all these help build children’s skills for the future. This article talks expertly about how bugs are a great way to teach kids about nature.

Worm on a fascinated 2 year old’s hand – start them rebugging early on Credit Ned Page

But another reason to get rebugging with kids is to ensure they understand them and to avoid putting the ‘fear’ into them about bugs. Too many children quickly pick up messages from their carers and elders. The message often is, frankly, that any old bug they see is dangerous, dirty, going to sting you, going to climb into your ear and so on.

You need to take care, obviously around wildlife.* But the vast majority of bugs are utterly harmless. And they are all a hugely valuable part of nature and our lives in so many way (read my book for more on that!).

Sadly children can quickly loose the fascination. It turns to fear, disgust or disinterest. We all need to avoid doing that and actively starting doing positive activities about bugs will help enormously.

Children are the generation that will need to put protection of invertebrates and all nature at the heart of their lives, habits, consumption, economies and, eventually, their politics. They are critical.

Schools can do so much and many do. I’ve heard over the past few year of wonderful schools and teachers putting learning about bugs into their school time, being so creative and using local resources and community and local business help. They are building bug friendly spaces in school grounds and gardens. Many have been liaising with local companies to get supplies of soil, wood, tools and seeds.

So I have a few ideas here but this is just a tiny sample to whet appetites.. I also list some great organisations with downloadable resources. And its worth reaching out to local authorities, green and nature groups and businesses for help and resources.

A few ideas for activities

  • A bug hunt – select a few ways you can spot bugs or the presence of bugs in an area. Then ask the children to go find them and write down what they saw and talk about it after. Bugs are sensitive so may not be in view with loud children around but often ants, spiders, worms, flies and other flying insects can be seen. Do tell the children to stay still and quiet for a while in one spot. They may be surprised at what they see.
  • Be a bug detective – on a bug hunt, they may just see the signs of bugs – such as the mines of a leaf miner bug in a grass blade, bush or tree leaf – the white lines that show a larvae has chewed through the middle layers of a leaf like the sandwich filling – you can even see their tiny poos. They larvae (maggots) will then form a hard pupae you can sport and feel and emerge later as an adult. Moths and flies do this and horse chestnut trees tend to often have mines but many other plants like dandelions. Another sign could be a hole ina leaf where a bee cutter has been at work, a spiders web, a slime trail of a snail or slug, a worm cast of soil in the grass, or some ladybird eggs under a leaf. The children can be detectives and search for bug clues.
  • Drawing bugs – gather some books on bugs and ideally find some in a green space near you.. and ask the children to draw them.. looking out for special features like colours, strange shapes, how many legs (6 on an insect, 8 on a spider and so on). They could invent their own bugs.
  • What do bugs need? – get the children to think about what the bugs may need (much like what we need) and how they get these things. You could start to look at features on bugs which they have found and which may show how they get these. For instance the sucking mouthparts on a butterfly to get the nectar in flower, or pincers on a beetle to grab prey, or a web to catch food, slimy skin on a worm to move through soil..
  • Get an expert to talk bugs – Get the local wildlife experts and organisations (such as your local wildlife trust, RSPB group or nature group) to give a talk or a wildlife walk showing what’s there – they will have expertise and the right places to see bugs.
  • Make the school grounds and buildings bug friendly – with a beetle log pile, a solitary bee hotel (they don’t sting!), bushes and wildflower patches. A pond is great way to bring in the invertebrates and can be a safe place done carefully. Your home or school buildings can host flower pots and window boxes and attract pollinating insects most of the year. You can get the children to do designs and think about what the creatures may need.
  • Read bug story books – there are many out there now – and talk about what happens to the bugs – here is a good list from BBC Wildlife magazine for starters.
  • Keep invertebrate pets – I did keep Indian stick insects when my kids were young and that was fabulous – they are very easy to keep and free to feed. But do check out best care and what not to keep.
Rebugging children can spot the tongue (proboscis) of a bee fly sucking nectar from a flower Credit Vicki hird

Some useful resources and organisations

Buglife The Invertebrate Conservation Trust – is a great organisation in the UK and you could download some of their resources here for children and schools – Activities to do with children and in schools

The UK Royal Entomological society runs Insect Week each year to introduce everyone but especially children to insects (sadly not all bugs!) – their website is here and is great with short animations to watch and discuss, lots of learning resources and plenty of ideas of things to do. And each you they run events around June time you can visit.

Garden Organic have fabulous school resources and a site to visit to learn about growing your school’s own bug friendly food.

On The Wildlife Trust there are some good general wildlife guides and your local Wildlife Trust will be hugely helpful on local species and may provide a speaker to come in and give a talk or a visit to one of their sites.

RSPB have a load of great resources online which will include invertebrates as well as wider wildlife and birds especially . They have a wild welcome pack for children with a magazine designed for different age groups.

There are many specific bug organisations that have great learning resources too such as such as Butterfly conservation and Bumblebee Conservation Trust and many others so if you have a specific bug to look at, do see if there is an organisation for it – there usually is, do google it and I list many in my book.

The Field Studies Council have fabulous guides to use for identifying wildlife including bugs and they also and run field courses for schools at all key stages.

Happy rebugging with the children!

*I well recall a camping trip where my young children disturbed a wild bee nest! My youngest was stung many times but he recovered and did not become scared of bees. We explained why they stung (and gave him a good dose of antihistamine!).

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Bugs would choose organic – tell the new PM

The Organic Trade Board and its members have started a petition to BUG THE NEW PM: Save nature in your first 100 days of government. Please do sign it here.

A key part of rebugging is being part of the movement for change so please do sign if you can. And share the petition with friends, family, anyone you can!

Here’s their pitch if you need more info:

Nature’s keyworkers such as earthworms, ladybirds and bees don’t have a voice. They have no choice in the matter when it comes to the harmful pesticides and fertilisers that are being sprayed on crops, which is ultimately leading to their decline. We need you to help make their voices heard.

Not only are insects a vital part of a balanced ecosystem, providing food for other animals and recycling nutrients, they also play an essential role in our global food system. One in three mouthfuls of food depends on pollinators and without pollinators we wouldn’t have potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, coffee, chocolate or cotton.

Organic farming works with nature, not against it, encouraging natural predators like ladybirds and pollinators like bees and butterflies rather than spraying harmful pesticides. As a result, on average, plant, insect and bird life is 50% more abundant on organic farms. There are up to seven times more wild bees in organic grain fields. So if nature did have a voice – it would choose organic. 

If pesticides were substituted for more sustainable farming practices (like organic), this could slow or reverse the decline in insects.

In the build up to Organic September 2022, the Organic Trade Board (OTB), its partners and 150 members, on behalf of the UK organic industry, is using this petition to give nature a voice for the very first time. 

On behalf of nature, the OTB is requesting that in their first 100 days of government, the new Prime Minister commits to protecting nature in any policies – and represents the UK at the crucially important UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in December.

The hope is that even tiny insect-sized steps can make a big difference when it comes to keeping nature’s crucial keyworkers thriving.

Illustration by children’s author and illustrator, Kate Pankhurst, who is also a relation of the Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst

Latest news and blogs on rebugging Tips and Ideas

Make a Rebugging Plan

People often ask me at talks, what should I do? Where do I start as there’s so much that’s needed? Create a Rebugging Plan.

My book is full of many ways to rebug – so getting hold of a copy and reading it is a good start! It covers a whole load of issues and actions – from gardening to clothes shopping…

But where do you start right now? What I suggest is having a simple Rebugging Plan. It doesn’t have to be written down but that can help. With a memory like a sieve, I certainly need to…Your Rebugging Plan could cover four key areas and one action in each (to start with anyway for the next month or two… )

A draft plan

  1. Rebugging peoples attitudes – Share a bug photo or a fun/fascinating bug fact every week to family, friends, colleagues or community – or all of them!
  2. Rebugging your environment – So many to choose from – but how about growing some native wildflowers, making a log pile or letting a weed patch grow. In May, you could do the Plantlife #NoMowMay challenge – save time and and let the bugs live
  3. Rebugging your lifestyle – Try cooking from scratch this week, cutting out the junk food where you can.. Or don’t buy any new clothes/stuff…
  4. Rebugging your politics – Join and get active with one new organisation – like a local one (eg a wildlife Trust or local parks group) or national (eg Buglife or PAN-UK – there is a list in my book). You will be part of a powerful and growing movement for protecting the bugs and their home.

And don’t forget to make it fit and fun

You can design your Rebugging Plan to make sure the actions fit your life and needs. No point setting yourself up to fail or to overdo it. Equally you want to see some results so keep a look out for impact – more flowers in your garden or local green spaces… or your MP responding positively to your campaign letter. And building in fun things to do will help … especially if kids, or reluctant friends or colleagues, are involved.

Like the well organised ants in a colony, creating a Rebugging Plan can be a quick tool to get your work to help the bugs started.

Happy Rebugging

(photo I just took of a flower crab spider catching a hoverfly in my garden in May 2022. One to share to show what amazing creatures are on your doorstep…)