Pests and Wildlife Benefits:
Pests and using natural pest control can actually be very beneficial to other wildlife. Encouraging wildlife while discouraging pests can be difficult to balance, but it is important to maintain strength in the local ecosystems. Here are some benefits to wildlife of using natural pest control:
- Preservation of beneficial insects. By not using chemical pesticides, ladybirds, lacewings, bees, and butterflies are spared and therefore can aid in keeping pest populations in check.
- Protecting soil organisms. Chemical pesticides are generally harmful to soil-dwelling organisms. By using natural pesticides, you can minimise disruption to these organisms, which contribute to soil fertility, nutrient cycling, and soil health.
- Food source. Pests such as aphids, caterpillars, and beetles are a food source for many predators. This includes ladybirds, lacewings, birds, and even bats.
- Pollinator support. Some pests (such as aphids) produce honeydew, which attracts ants, bees, and wasps. This is because honeydew is very similar to the sap that aphids extract from trees. Ants crave the sweetness from the honeydew, and wasps and honeybees produce dark, strong honey with the honeydew. Although ants can be pests, bees, and wasps are pollinators essential to plant reproduction.
- Attracting birds. Insect-eating birds such as robins and blackbirds will be attracted to certain pests such as beetles and aphids, and therefore are more likely to visit a garden with lots of food readily available for them.
However, certain pests have specific benefits:
- Aphids. They are a food source for ladybirds, lacewings, hoverflies, and some birds. They also support pollination as they can inadvertently carry pollen from plant to plant. Aphids also produce honeydew, which attracts ants, bees, and wasps. This is because honeydew is very similar to the sap that aphids extract from trees. Ants crave the sweetness from the honeydew, and wasps and honeybees produce dark, strong honey with the honeydew.
- Slugs and Snails. Some birds, such as Thrushes and Blackbirds, and hedgehogs and toads feed on slugs and snails and are a vital part of many species’ diets. Slugs and Snails also play a vital role in decomposition, where they work to break down leaves and dead plant material, returning nutrients to the soil.
- Caterpillars. Like slugs and snails, caterpillars also eat plant material and therefore play a role in decomposition. They are also a vital food source to some birds such as Tits and Warblers, especially when their chicks need a food source high in protein. They are also enjoyed by bats and some small mammals. Caterpillar’s presence is a sign of a healthy ecosystem, as they are usually very sensitive to changes such as pollution and climate change.
- Birds. See our bird page for many benefits of encouraging birds into your garden.
- Rabbits and Squirrels. Rabbit droppings are a rich source of nitrogen, which enriches garden soil. They also produce small burrows and tunnels, which can be shelter for insects and other small mammals. Squirrels play a role in seed dispersal, burying seeds and nuts, and causing new growth if they forget some.
Although pests can be a pain, they often play an important role in the balance and diversity of the local ecosystem. Reducing pests by encouraging beneficial wildlife is a much more sustainable way compared to using chemicals.