Creepy crawlies

Many invertebrates are considered garden pests. Aphids suck the life out of our plants, slugs munch their way through them and vine weevil larvae work their way through roots causing sudden and unexpected death. However there is a lot that these minibeasts can do to help the gardener, and even those which are less helpful have their own place in the wider ecological balance, so perhaps we should be a little more understanding. They can also provide an easily accessible method to get children interested in wildlife and what’s going on in this miniature world.

Providing habitats and food are the best ways to encourage creepy crawlies into your garden. Plus, if you create habitats for them, then children know exactly where to go looking for them, to investigate what’s set up home in your garden.

Needless to say, the use of any pesticides will greatly reduce the insects that your visit your garden. Your plants might be safer, but at what cost? Remember, no insects means no predators of insects (eg those lovely birds you’d like to have in your garden).

If you still have a problem with these little creatures (or have an extreme infestation that you can’t find any way to feel light hearted about) then visit our problems page to discover how to rid yourself of them.


Untidiness is good in the creepy crawly world. Gardens where every fallen leaf and broken twig is instantly cleared away isn’t much fun for insects, which need somewhere to hide away from predators. This doesn’t mean that you have to give your whole garden over to messiness – at the end of the day you don’t want to actively encourage caterpillars to investigate your veg patch or slugs to slime their way through your bedding display. However, dedicating a corner of your garden to a less fastidious cleaning regime can reap minibeast rewards.

Creating a log pile is a great way of replicating many invertebrate’s natural habitat – that of a fallen tree. If you can, get logs from a range of different trees (native species are best) and in different sizes, then stack them neatly so there’s a variety of big and little gaps between them. Leave it as undisturbed as possible and you’ll be amazed at the range of creatures that make it their home. Nettle patches are another good bet, and much loved by caterpillars (remember, if you have caterpillars you should get a good supply of beautiful butterflies and moths!).

A ‘nectar bar’ in your borders is a pretty, as well as effective, way of attracting nectar loving creatures such as butterflies, bees and hoverflies. Just plant up a strip with a selection of the flowering plants listed below as good food sources, so you have some flowering from spring to autumn, and wait for the flying feasters to arrive. You could even go all out and create a wildflower meadow, which will attract a huge variety of insects, as well as small mammals.


There are numerous plants you can grow to attract a wide variety of insect life into your garden. Here are a few examples alongside the invertebrates they should encourage:

  • Buddleja spp. – butterflies, bees, wasps, hoverflies, moths, flies, beetles
  • Nettles (Urtica spp.) – caterpillars
  • Elm (Ulnus spp.) – caterpillars
  • Fuchsia spp. – caterpillars
  • Blackberries (Rubus spp.) – moths
  • Ivy (Hedera spp.) – moths, flies, butterflies
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) – moths, bees
  • Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) – moths
  • Birch (Betula spp.) – moths, weevils, wasps, many other insects
  • Willow (Salix spp.) – butterflies, moths, bees, many other insects
  • Oak (Quercus spp.) – beetles, flies, moths, butterflies, spiders, many other insects
  • Rowan (Sorbus spp.) – many insects
  • Red valerian (Centranthus ruber) – butterflies, moths
  • Michaelmas daisies (Aster spp.) – butterflies
  • Field scabious (Knautia arvensis) – bees, butterflies
  • Evening primrose (Oenothera spp.) – moths
  • Common knapweed (Centaurea nigra) – hoverflies, bees, butterflies
  • Aubretia spp. – butterflies
  • Elder (Sambucus spp.) – flies, hoverflies, beetles
  • Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) – butterflies

You can also provide other food sources, including:

  • Rotted fruit – butterflies, wasps
  • Jam – wasps; particularly if you want them to feed on the jam laid out for them over the other side of the garden from where you’re having your lunch!