#30DaysWild: 11 & 12: ‘Biodiversity’

It’s a biodiversity two for one, covering days 11 and 12 of 30 Days Wild

When I used to work for the RSPB, one of the watchwords of conservation was ‘biodiversity’. It’s both a useful and infuriating term. It simply means the variety of life but trying to explain why variety is important was where I struggled. You can’t really explain it without mentioning ecology and then you’ve got two words that sound a bit like jargon or boffinspeak and the danger they will turn people off what you are trying to enthuse them about. I haven’t got a quick and easy answer for you today but here’s how I’ve experienced biodiversity and ecology over the last couple of days.

Location: the lavatory. Time: Bedtime

Yes folks, you’re joining me for my last visit to the toilet before I turn in for the night. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the details of my actual reason for being in the smallest room in the house.

Instead let’s look up at the ceiling, as I clean my glasses so I can see to read in bed. A hoverfly has decided that this is a good place to spend the night. It’s one of the smaller kind, perhaps the marmalade one. Most hoverflies don’t even have common names, so it’s hard to say – but it’s flying up near the ceiling in the way I’ve seen the marmalade ones do before. All of a sudden one of those spindly legged, almost weightless cellar spiders runs toward it, waving its front legs around. A sort of cat and mouse type dance ensues. I think about trying to catch the fly and let it out the back door, but when I try it won’t settle for long enough. If I squash it I might as well not have bothered. So I leave it because if the spider gets lucky it’s only nature after all. Me squashing the fly in a botched rescue on the other hand isn’t.

Two species in the loo was the extent of the biodiversity. The ecology aspect was how one might be food for the other. The fly was still there and seemingly intact in the morning. Make of that what you will.

Location: my front garden. Time: Breakfast time.

I’m looking at the dog roses and elder flower which are just a couple of the plants within the native hedgerow my husband introduced a couple of years ago. He is still feeling the pain of hoiking out the enormous non-native green concrete shrubs that were there previously. His (and my) efforts to make the garden more attractive to wildlife – more biodiverse – have paid off. The garden is nearly always full of birds, there are numerous different types of bee buzzing around different plants. Even though he bemoans the fact the alfalfa is ‘non-native’ (it was only meant to be a green manure but has made itself at home) bees and hoverflies are busy feeding on it.

As he deadheads some marigolds – which need a bit of a firm hand or they will completely take over – a whole bunch of ants run up his bare legs. “Help me get them off!” he shouts without giving me time to help him get them off. “If only we had that green woodpecker on speed dial,” I say facetiously because – obviously – woodpeckers don’t have phones and speed dial isn’t even a thing anymore.

Biodiversity, variety of plants and animals, in my front garden – so much I haven’t counted. Bees and hoverflies are feeding on the flowers, if the woodpecker did visit it could feed on those ants. The birds which do visit eat the food we put out for them but also peck up minute little flies and bugs from the brassicas we’ve left to go to seed and the deadwood piles. That’s the ecology in action.

These experiences were just a few minutes each, but the feelings and fascination they provided were so much longer and deeper. And that’s one of the essential reasons why biodiversity is so important.

Pic credits: Flowers in my front garden and Alfalfa by me. Marmalade hoverfly “1357 marmelade hoverfly” by crabchick is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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