Arid Environment

How to protect pollinators and wildlife attracted to our gardens

The garden is full of life right now and it’s not just the plant life. Bees, butterflies, spiders, woodlice, wasps and other common and not so common insects abound hopefully, along with other welcome wildlife such as birds, hedgehogs, frogs, perhaps badgers, squirrels and others.

Unwelcome guests are also around unfortunately, such as greenfly, blackfly, lily beetles, slugs, snails and vine weevils. These are some of the ones that we don’t want but at the same time we must tread very carefully as to how we control them.

You see, the nasties may feed on our plants and can even damage flowers and fruits but don’t forget that they themselves are often food and sustenance for the very same insects and small animals that we do want in the garden such as bees and birds .

With all the talk and action over the last number of years about the importance of promoting biodiversity and protecting at-risk species, it’s great to see such awareness of pollinator-friendly plants and planting and so many wildflower areas being sown or simply rewilded.

Irish Examiner garden columnist Peter Dowdall. Picture: John Allen

It’s so important then, that once we have done everything to attract the pollinators and beneficial wildlife into the garden we don’t then poison them once they are there, in a misguided attempt to kill the greenfly on the roses.

The term natural balance is all important. The wider the variety of plant species in our gardens then the broader the range of animal and insect species that will find sustenance and safety in there and the more types of insects and animals in our gardens then the less likely it will be that we will see an unnatural build-up in numbers of any one species.

That was always the message in gardening, well before the dawn of any garden chemicals and now, more than ever, that message is vital.

Using something to make plants unpalatable to garden pests is a very effective way of preventing attack.


Make up a garlic wash using about two bulbs of garlic to two liters of boiling water. Let the mixture sit outside for 24 hours or more and then dilute about 3:1 with water and spray it on any pants that are at risk of slug or aphid attack and it will make those plants totally unpalatable to the pests.

Traditionally garlic is used as a companion plant, used near plants that are at risk of aphid attack as the garlic will deter the aphids and using the wash in this way just takes that principle a step further.


Calcium chloride applied to plants will help them to help themselves. By applying it to different plants at different rates you will induce a plant-mediated effect that makes the plants unpalatable to pests.

UK company Grazers does a range of calcium chloride-based garden products designed to repel many different pests including slugs, snails, lily beetle, aphids, caterpillars, even rabbits, pigeons and deer.

The plant pests then seek other food sources instead and leave our plants to thrive, helped in their growth by the calcium nutrient in the products.

This in turn, benefits not only our plants, which in effect are helped to help themselves, but also predators of the plant pests, thereby maintaining that all important, natural balance, keeping the natural wildlife food chain in place, enhancing the natural environment and helping the rich tapestry.

Thrushes will love the snails in your garden.
Thrushes will love the snails in your garden.

Other methods to control slugs and snails which are, by far our most common garden pest include using barrier products such as sheep’s wool pellets, crushed sea shells and other items which create a surface that the molluscs can’t get over.

Using barrier products like these are great because they keep our plants safe but once more, it means that the predators such as thrushes and hedgehogs have a healthy food supply and with many of them, as they break down, become a valuable soil additive.


Vine weevils can be devastating if they get a foothold in the garden. They damage plants in two ways. The adult weevil which is a gray or black colored beetle, munches away on plant leaves and the damage is very easy to identify as it is notches from the outside of the leaf.

But the adults lay their eggs from July to September under plants and this is where the real damage is done. The eggs develop into small, cream-coloured grubs which munch away happily on the plant roots throughout the winter before emerging as adult beetles the following spring and early summer.

As all this is happening underground, it is very difficult to spot the problem until the damage is done. If you see a plant which is not thriving and looks a bit limp and loose in the ground or in a pot, then have a look at the root system to see if there are any grubs present.


Again, try and encourage the number of their predators in the garden including, birds, frogs and hedgehogs.

Steinernema kraussei are little parasitic worms sold as Nemays Vine Weevil killer which are effective at controlling vine weevil grubs and totally safe for children, pets and wildlife.

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