Tips to foster biod­iversity Can’t wait for spring

Summer meadow with butterfly at sunset.

The signs announcing the long-awaited return of spring are unmis­takable: trees decked out in fresh cloaks of green, singing birds and buzzing bees. Unfor­tu­nately, this buzzing sound faces a tremendous threat that could mute it. The United Nations’ Inter­gov­ern­mental Science-Policy Platform on Biod­iversity and Ecosystem Services says that around 1 million species are threatened with extinction today – including numerous types of insects. Protecting biod­iversity is becoming an increasingly important task. A major job for society as a whole. But: Each of us can do our own small part to create a natural habitat for insects and other species. We have compiled a few tips and tricks that you can use to make your own contri­bution.

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Eat healthy Prioritise organic foods

Buying organic foods for the sake of biod­iversity? Exactly! It may sound so simple. But it is really a very effective way to do something to foster biod­iversity and maintain the quality of soil. An organic farm is char­ac­terised in particular by its more conser­vative agri­cultural practises, its reduced use of pesticides and the attention it pays to the cycles of nature. As a result, organ­ically farmed areas have a much wider variety of species on them than comparable conven­tional farms do. Healthy soil also acts a carbon sink. This also bolsters climate protection.

Of course, organic products are somewhat more expensive. But the price is generally justified. The differences in prices for fruit and vegetables are frequently not so great. But meat prices are certainly much higher. But, maybe, you can cut back on the amount of meat you eat. Then, you will be able to afford the organic variety.

The rule of thumb for shopping: The more organic and regional products you buy and the higher the standard (e.g. Demeter, Bioland, Naturland etc.), the greater the biod­iversity.

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Water, water, water A cool beverage for trees and animals

Drinking lots of fluids is essential on really hot days. This is a rule of thumb for people as well as for many animals. When nature runs dry on hot days, you are welcome to provide some refreshment yourself. Simply fill a bowl with water for bees, yellow jackets and birds. Remember: Place a twig on the side of the bowl so that insects will be able to easily reach the water and will not drown. Glass marbles are also a good choice.

The world of animals is not the only place that works up a thirst on hot days. Plants need moisture, too. Trees that line streets may not get enough water and slowly dry out. If you see a tree that is shedding dry leaves during the early part of summer, pull out your water bottle, watering can or even a big bucket and treat the tree to some much-needed moisture. It will reward you in the autumn with its brightly coloured leaves!

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Creating a home Building homes for insects and small animals

The world has fewer and fewer places where humans have yet to make their mark. As a result, insects and other animals lack nesting areas and shelters. But you can easily help out.

If you have a garden, do not clear away all of the leaves. Leave a few piles of them scattered around. Hedgehogs and many insects will feel right at home there. Old wood and tree stumps also make great homes for all sorts of insects.

Even if you do not have a big garden, you can still create a habitat for insects. The solution is called insect hotels. You can build them yourself.

  1. Material
    You need to use the right material if you want to create an attractive home for insects. You can find a wide range of insect hotels in do-it-yourself and discount stores. Unfor­tu­nately, these hotels are frequently made with straw, spruce cones, wood wool, wood chips and other cheap fillers, all of which are largely useless as insect hideouts and nurseries. Be sure to use the right materials. We are talking about things like dried-out hardwood (oak, ash, beech, fruit trees), hollow reed and bamboo stalks, specially fired clay tiles, small cardboard tubes or bee nesting boards.

  2. Constructing an insect hotel
    Once you have the right materials you need, it’s time to start building. As a first step, you should build a wooden base structure. The best structure is a box that has an open front and contains various sections. You can then create the various types of homes. Carefully stack your bamboo or cardboard tubes. Make sure that they are intact and have been cleanly cut. If you plan to use a large piece of wood into which you will bore holes, please make sure that you have left behind no splinters or other contam­ination in the bore holes. The reason is simple: They will damage wild bees’ wings. You should always bore longit­ud­inally in wood – that is, from the bark side – to prevent cracks and the swelling of splints in the nesting places. The holes must be completely clean and carefully smoothed out. They should have a diameter of 2 mm to 8 mm. The wider the spectrum of bore holes, the greater the chances for residents.
    Keep one other point in mind as well: These types of insect hotels are a good nesting place for only about 30 of the more than 550 types of bees in Germany. Nearly three-quarters of all nest-building wild bees use sandy soil. You can attract these bees by using open sand sites or creating a “sandbox” in your garden.

  3. Setup and care of the hotel
    Once your insect hotel is finished, you can set it up in a protected place. A roof-covered location is an excellent place. It should be firmly attached to prevent it from swaying in the wind. You should point it in a south­eastern and south­western direction to ensure that it always gets plenty of sunlight. You should also keep an eye on your insect hotel. The insects will clean the areas they use them­selves when necessary. But you can replace missing stalks, remove spider webs and exchange wood pieces with bore holes after a few years to prevent mould. It is also helpful to plant wild­flowers near the insect hotel to ensure that the insects have a good source of food.

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Create natural habitats Make your own seedbombs

If you want to create a natural habitat for insects, all you have to do is plant a wild­flower meadow. You can use seedbombs to create colourful beds of flowers at home or in barren outdoor areas! They come with everything that it takes to produce a plot of blooming flowers on even postage-stamp-sized places without any great gardening know-how. The flowers produced by the bombs then become a great source of nutrition for bees, butterflies and insects.

  • Flower seeds
    Take six table­spoons of flower seeds. When you select the seeds, you need to know where you will plant your seedbombs. Is the site shady, or is it exposed to the sun throughout the day? Some great choices are corn­flowers, sunflowers, common poppies and common marigolds. You can buy seeds (local types of flowers or special mixes designed for bees and insects). Or you can also collect them in the late summer and use them in your next seedbombs.

  • Soil
    You will need 20 table­spoons of soil. You do not need any type of special soil to make your seedbombs. If you chose garden soil, you can use coffee grounds or egg shells to increase the nutrients. Soil that you buy in stores already has a sufficient amount of nutrients. You do not have to add anything. But make sure that the soil contains no peat.

  • Clay powder or cat litter
    You will then need 12 table­spoons of clay powder or cat litter. You can use both for your seedbombs. Clay powder is brimming with nutrients, but it is expensive. Cat litter is a low-priced alternative. You will find it in just about every super­market. You just need to make sure that it contains no ingredients like fragrances and is made of pure bentonite.

  • Kitchen utensils
    You will also need a large bowl, a spoon, about nine table­spoons of water and an underlay on which the seedbombs can dry. An old egg carton, a baking sheet or a kitchen towel will work just fine.

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    Mix the ingredients
    The dry ingredients must be mixed first. During this stage, you will mix the seeds and the soil. You will then add the clay powder or cat litter. Mix everything really well once again.

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    Add water
    You will now add some water – just enough until you have created a supple, but firm dough. Tip: It is better to use too little water and add more when you need it!

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    Form balls
    It’s now time to shape the bombs! Create walnut-sized balls from the dough. And that just about does it. You simply have to let the balls dry out for a few days in a dark, cool place. Once again, egg cartons, a baking sheet or a kitchen towel are perfect for the job.

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    Toss the seedbombs
    It’s now time to put your seedbombs to work in nature. Simply place them in a good spot and exercise a little patience. The first flowers will soon begin to pop up.

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Protect habitats Support local initi­atives or become a wild-bee patron

Bees are covered by black and yellow stripes. That much is clear. Really? It’s actually only partially true. When we talk about bees, we usually mean honey bees. But there are many other types of wild bees out there as well. They are insects and play a key role in nature: They pollinate all sorts of plants and make it possible for us to savour fruits and vegetables.

Unfor­tu­nately, more than half of the approx­imately 550 species of bees in Germany are considered to be endangered. Right now, 52.2 % are listed on Germany’s red list for bees. The trend is not simply alarming for wild bees. The economy is affected, too. About 84 % of the most important agri­cultural types of plants used for our food are pollinated by insects. Wild and honey bees are essential aspects of our nutri­tional base.

Two factors are to blame for the general decline in wild bee popu­lation and the threat posed to it: the destruction of their nesting sites and the elim­ination or reduction of their food sources. Another factor is the amount of space that building construction and soil sealing have taken up. Other negative factors include “tidy” and public green spaces that are mowed too frequently as well as private gardens and the frequent use of pesticides each year.

An initiative called “Germany’s buzzing! We are doing something for bees” is working to increase bee popu­lations in cities, towns and counties. Everybody can pitch in, regardless of whether they have been involved in envir­on­mental or bee protection in the past. The initiative protects wild bees and other types of insects. It also demon­strates the need to respect animals’ habitats. The motto is: Everyone may, everyone can. See whether the initiative is active in your community. New members are always welcome!

You can also become a wild bee patron by making a donation to the German group called the Foundation for People and the Envir­onment. The initiative uses this support to create nature gardens that will help to protect bees. If you want to help, check out this link: https://www.wild­bien­enpaten.de/

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