An Invertebrate’s Eye View
It’s normal to see the world at a human length scale; mature trees are behemoths, venerable giants beneath which we can sit and be humbled. Most herbaceous plants are minute natural sculptures, requiring us to bend to get a clear view, or kneel to bring our eyes in line with this shorter world. Our perspective however is only one of many ways of looking at our planet, and not the viewpoint the majority of animals see by any stretch. While kneeling to appreciate that flower, raise your eyes to see the world you have become part of. Better yet, why not lie down, smell the earth beneath you and take a moment to look at the world from the perspective of an invertebrate. Those same flowers that looked so diminutive from the bipedal heights we inhabit are now huge; a green, alien plantation. From the insect perspective, that mature tree is a city.
If you think like that, try to get into the mind of an in invert, you can see how much potential even the smallest garden has to become an insect oasis. The beauty of being tiny is that tiny features can provide huge benefits. That pile of sticks and old wood in the corner for example, the shelter that provides is very inviting…
Wood piles are an excellent way to provide shelter for invertebrates. It’s hard to find a lower effort feature to create in a garden. Diversity is a good thing; fill the heap with sticks of different sizes and thicknesses. Old logs, bits of pruned shrub, maybe even a few broken tiles at the bottom. A wood pile or waste heap creates a wonderful microhabitat, sheltered from the rain and the wind (especially if sited against a fence) and hidden from aerial predators including the jerky, almost distressingly observant attentions of house sparrows (if you’re lucky enough to have them). Moths can hide during daylight hours, spiders spin their webs in the voids and earthworms will enjoy the retained damp of the soil on hot days, creating an open buffet for amphibians to take advantage too.
Of course, leaving a tangled mass of twigs in the corner may not be everyone’s taste. It may seem counterintuitive for the labouring garden to draw themselves upright at the end of a hard day, wipe the rivulets of sweat from their brow, survey their hard work, then bung an untidy pile of clippings in the corner. Never fear if you seek a neater aesthetic; dead wood too is an incredibly valuable habitat for insects, notably beetles. A neatly stacked pile of logs, spared the burner, can be incredibly valuable. In those parts of the country lucky enough to have stag beetles, the larvae of these antlered beasts can remain coiled in their ex-arboreal chambers for seven years. Fallen dead wood supports a different invertebrate community to standing dead wood, so if you have a tree that needs to come down, why not remove the branches and leave the lower part of the stem standing? Or for the really keen, bury a section of log so it stands upright, a wooden biodiversity monolith. Where fungi colonise to break down the stem, the weakened wood will become home to all manner of grubs and minibeasts. If such tasty protein parcels lurk beneath the bark, woodpeckers are likely to follow.
When stacked in the sun, fallen logs become wonderful basking sites for butterflies. Depending on your garden’s situation you may find the shimmering eye spots of peacock, the stark contrast of the red admiral, or the ragged leaf outline of the comma paying a visit. Jumping spiders too enjoy a sun baked surface; a heated anchor plate for their safety lines as they hurl themselves at passing prey. This is to say nothing of the solitary bees, hoverflies and (in the spring) bee flies that regularly rest in warm spots.
So why not pile up some wood? It’ll only take five minutes. Five minutes well spent.