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Suffolk Wildline - FAQs
your most commonly asked questions answered:

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For further information - see our Factsheets

Call Suffolk Wildline on 01473 890089 or email us with your questions

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Bumblebees

I have found a bumblebee nest - what should I do? Bumble bee -Paul Edwards

People often worry about bumblebees stinging or swarming.  Bumblebees are the most placid

of bees and will not sting unless absolutely necessary - for example if stood on.  They have small nests in comparison to honey bees or wasps and it is not in their nature to swarm. 

The bumblebee nest is used for one season.  At the end of the summer the bees will disperse, all adults will die over winter except for the new queen bumblebees which hibernate and emerge the following spring to start a new nest. If a nest is destroyed before the next generation of queens has been produced, the original queen and all of the bumblebees of that nest will die over winter, no bumblebees from that individual nest will survive to reproduce another year. 

Suffolk Wildlife Trust advise against moving a bumblebee nest because the chances of the colony surviving are slim. Bumblebees rely on landscape features surrounding their nest to find food and locate the nest, if moved they may leave the nest to forage for food to feed their larvae and be unable to find the nest again.  Attempting to move a bumblebee nest should be a last resort however The Bumblebee Conservation Trust

provide further advice on how to do this and bumblebees in general. 

 

Bumblebees are valuable pollinators - they feed exclusively on pollen and nectar.  Without bumblebees the people of Suffolk would not enjoy the benefits of many arable crops, orchards, vegetables and flowers.  Bumblebees are nationally declining and wildlife friendly gardens have become a crucial refuge for bumblebees to survive and thrive. 

If you would like to encourage bumblebees in your garden it can be as simple as placing a ceramic flower pot upside down to provide a cavity for them to nest in or growing pollen and nectar rich flowers.  For further advice please contact Wildline

 

Ponds

I have a natural pond but I am worried as the water level really goes down during the dry spells in the summer.  Is this damaging for the wildlife in the pond?

flag irisPeople often worry about the effects of drought and drying out on ponds.  Shallow ponds naturally dry out from time to time with little, if any, damage to the wildlife.  Indeed, some species actually require a dry period to complete their life cycle. In any pond, water levels naturally rise in winter and fall in summer and ponds that have the most variance in water levels can have the greatest diversity of wildlife.

Letting water levels fluctuate throughout the season benefits the many plants and animals that use the marginal areas of the pond.  Water mint, for example, thrives when water levels drop a little and the bare shore is used by many insect species.  Some insects, including a few dragonflies, lay their eggs in the wet mud and water beetle larvae crawl out to pupate here.  Marshy or muddy areas around the edge of the pond can be an exceptionally rich habitat for plants, invertebrates and small mammals.  They can also be great food sources for birds and provide nest building material for those that use the mud for nest building, such as the swallow.

Predators such as fish can dominate a pond and may strip it bare of insects and amphibian eggs and larvae.  Low water levels can reduce the numbers of predators and therefore allow other species to thrive.

Bare, dry edges are valuable as a home to terrestrial invertebrates including snails, spiders and beetles that live at water margins.  These areas also provide good basking sites for reptiles and some insects.

 

Our garden pond is over-crowded with frog spawn and I have put some in a tank for my grandson to watch.  I would like to give the tadpoles to his school pond.  Is it ok to do this?Frogs mating - John Lewington


Frogs are naturally abundant in many garden ponds.  By moving spawn you run the risk of moving disease, parasites or harmful plants to another pond, so it is best to release the tadpoles back into the pond they came from.  It is always best to encourage children to watch wildlife in it’s natural environment.  Tadpoles feed on algae and rotted plant material to grow into froglets, and sometimes if conditions are not quite right for tadpole development they will survive overwinter and develop into tadpoles the following year. 

There are great educational benefits for children getting a close-up view of developing frog tadpoles.  If your grandson’s school pond is suitable for wildlife amphibians should find their own way there.  Amphibians spend a large part of the year sheltering and hibernating on land in long grass, leaf piles, rocks, logs etc. 

There should be no worries about apparent over-crowding – there is no such thing as ‘too much spawn’.  By laying large numbers of eggs, frogs can ensure that some of their offspring will survive for the next generation.  Frogs, newts and toads play a vital part in the food chain as food for other wildlife. 

garden pond

 

I am thinking of introducing some fish into my wildlife pond in the garden – is this a good idea?

It may be tempting to add fish to a pond for added interest, but generally speaking the best wildlife ponds have no fish in them.  Fish can dominate a pond by hoovering up underwater minibeasts such as dragonfly larvae and frog and newt tadpoles.  A garden pond can be a real haven for wildlife – if managed correctly it will be teeming with life and will provide the opportunity for hours of pleasure watching it all year round!

Interestingly fish tend not to eat toad tadpoles because they taste horrible.  So the sensible toads tend to seek out fish ponds, where the fish have eaten most of the predators that might eat the toads! 

 

 

 

Birds

Do I need to feed the garden birds during spring and summer, now that the harsh winter months are over?robin

It is important to feed garden birds throughout the year.  During the spring and summer months they require high protein foods, particularly while they are moulting.  Suitable foods include black sunflower seeds, mild grated cheese, soaked sultanas, mealworms, waxworms, soft apples and pears (cut in half), bananas, grapes and good seed mixes.  If peanuts are put out during the breeding season, it is important to only use metal mesh feeders.  If birds are able to take whole nuts there is a risk of choking their chicks.  Fat and bread should not be used during this time as these too can be harmful to nestlings. 

 

 

blackbirdThere is a blackbird building a nest in my garden hedge but I want to cut the hedge.  Am I allowed?
It is illegal to intentionally damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird whilst it is being built or used (Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981).  You must delay the hedge cutting until the end of the bird breeding season, as the blackbird could have several broods in the same nest. 

Hedges should generally not be cut from March to July in order to avoid disturbing nesting birds.  Even for light hedge trimming you must always check the section you are working on to ensure that there are no birds nesting.  If you have a fruiting hedge it would be best to leave any maintenance work until the late winter (ideally February).  This ensures that the hedgerow fruits and seeds provide a valuable source of food for birds and mammals through the winter months. 

 

 

Wildlife Gardening

We are planning to create a compost heap in our garden and understand that by composting certain items we can encourage more wildlife species to the garden.  What sort of things should we be composting to achieve this?

 

The addition of a compost heap to your garden provides the perfect habitat at different times of the year for a wide range of species.  Decaying plant material seethes with insects, worms, mites and other invertebrates.  A compost heap in your garden can also provide a feeding area or refuge for creatures such as beetles, toads, grass snake, hedgehogs, small mammals, bats, birds and slow-worms!  Many of these eat insects and slugs and therefore act as natural pest controllers, reducing the need for pesticides and other chemicals in the garden.

There are no particular ingredients of a compost heap that will encourage wildlife more than others.  The general rule is ‘if it will rot, it will compost’, although some items are best avoided.  Some things, like grass clippings and soft young weeds, rot quickly.  They work as ‘activators’, getting the composting process started.  Some items, such as vegetable scraps, tea bags and tougher plants material is slower to rot but gives body to the finished compost.  Woody items decay very slowly, but they are best chopped or shredded first.  For best results, use a mixture of types of ingredient but the right balance is something you learn by experience.  We have produced a new factsheet on composting, which we would be pleased to send you.

 

Please could you give me some advice on how to control pests in my vegetable garden without using chemicals?

You can have a productive and attractive vegetable garden without using chemical herbicides and pesticides, which damage the environment.  Natural predators of pests can be encouraged by providing them with suitable habitat and food.  Decaying plant material seethes with insects, worms, mites and other invertebrates.  Compost heaps may provide a refuge and feeding area for insect and slug-eating creatures such as hedgehogs, birds, toads, grass snakes and slow-worms.    Try companion planting to incorporate a variety of native plants and shrubs into your vegetable garden.  Certain plants, mixed with fruit and vegetables, can help reduce damage by pests by attracting pest predators or by acting as hosts for beneficial insects such as ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings, which all feed on aphids.

For further information - see our Factsheets

Call Suffolk Wildline on 01473 890089 or email us with your questions .

  

 

 


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