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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..
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Children and bugs – a heady, joyful rebugging mix

I am surrounded by eager faces demanding invertebrate identifications. There is a big moth with red on dark grey markings. I panic as my brain freezes then suddenly recall five spotted burnet moths. *

Here is a gloriously green metallic thick thighed beetle and a plant hopper.. And a sawfly larvae.. a garden spider spiderling…I am just about keeping up.. Phew.

When I was asked by an old colleague, a few wintery months ago, to give a family bug talk in Oxford, it was an easy yes for me. Especially easy as they were including bug hunting activities in a heavenly wildlife spot. Thank you Helen and Low Carbon West Oxford, for the invite and all your magnificent work.

So, I arrive at a stunning, wildlife-filled, ex-cricket ground on my birthday as it happens. Very soon I am having an thrilling time opening a box of treasures – insect sampling kits the wonderful organisers had bought in advance: pooters, nets, even the latest Collins insect ID guide. Treats for me let alone the children.

And those children got the gist of the task so quickly. With their parents and carers, they were soon enthusiastically bug gathering. So enthusiastically that it became necessary to move them from the fabulous meadow into the equally fabulous orchard to ensure minimal wildlife disturbance. This was a nice problem to sort!

Skilled bug sampler with their pooter full of bugs! Credit Hugh Warwick

One sweep with the butterfly nets and a whole range of bugs were caught. Pooters are another gadget entirely – a special glass or plastic container with two tubes attached, one for you to suck in and one to put near small bugs you want to examine. There is a gauze on the sucking end, so you don’t get a mouthful of angry bug. I was astounded by quickly the young children grasped how to manage this gadget. I could not ID fast enough! (See photo above!).

We found spiders, butterflies, moths, plant bugs, hoppers, bush crickets, caterpillars, mayflies and so much more. The sun shone despite doom warnings of rain and thunder. Hedgehog and mammal expert, who also is a great photographer, Hugh Warwick, took photos of the day. It was a good birthday.

Hogacre Common was the 14-acre site for our bug revels and it’s a wonderful community wildlife reserve, created out of a gift of a sports ground and pavilion, by Corpus Christi College in 2011. Annual rent is a jar of honey from the plentiful hives now on the stream lined site. The community have already planted thousands of trees, maintained an orchard, started a fabulous food growing and training site, and created wild areas and meadows to explore. The gorgeous old pavilion is a cafe, using produce from the site.

Every village, borough, town, should have such a resource for wilding ourselves, learning about nature in nature, and having community events rooted in nature.

Rebugging the planet is as much about rebugging attitudes as anything. It’s the chapter in my book that folk often comment on. I feel attitudes are changing and if this day was anything to go by, we have some seriously top-notch bug ambassadors in Oxford. If you live in the area do sign up to the Hogacre newsletters and go to the events and café.

Credit Hugh Warwick

But we need more. Do spread the word. And if you need any more reminders about why I wrote Rebugging, have a watch of this wonderful film by Professor Dave Goulson, the BBC, and Studio Panda.

*I am now quite convinced it was a cinnabar moth😏. hey ho.

Credit Hugh Warwick

Latest news and blogs on rebugging

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