A garden full of wildlife

Paul Rule

I live in a 1930’s semi with a typical narrow but quite long garden and I started to seriously take interest in what was living in it for the Nature in Cambridge project. Since that project came to a close I have continued to monitor its wildlife partly inspired by Dr Jennifer Owen’s 30 year study of her Leicester garden.

As can be seen from the following table I have a long way to go to catch Jennifer’s total but I do think getting close to 2000 species should be possible with several years more surveying.

Native PlantsFungi & LichensVertebratesInvertebratesTotal
Paul’s Garden Records145596110131278
Dr Owen’s Records16606421352365

My main focus is on invertebrates and the following table provides a breakdown of all the invertebrate groups I have found so far.

Break-down of Invertebrate Groups

Coleoptera – Beetles104Araneae – Spiders47
Dermaptera – Earwigs2Opiliones – Harvestmen5
Diptera – True Flies122Acariformes – Mites14
Ephemeroptera – Mayflies3Pseudoscorpiones1
Hemiptera – True Bugs152

Hymenoptera – Bees20Collembola – Springtails11
Hymenoptera – Wasps30Crustacea8
Hymenoptera – Ants4Molluscs12
Hymenoptera – Sawflies6Myriapoda -Millipedes & Centipedes5
Lepidoptera – Butterflies13

Lepidoptera – Moths387Microscopic Animals
Neuroptera – Lacewings10Amoeba2
Odonata – Dragonflies & Damselflies11Ciliates7
Orthoptera – Crickets and Grasshoppers4Heliozoa1
Psocoptera – Barkflies4Rotifers5
Trichoptera – Caddisflies15Sponges1
Thysanoptera -Thrip2

Zygentoma – Silverfish1Worms4

Resident Invertebrates

Many of the recorded species have only been found in their winged adult form so may only be transitory species or dropping in to feed rather than breed, but I would estimate that for at least half the garden is their home.

Some a large and obvious like the Southern Hawker Dragonfly that breeds in our pond, but others are minute and will mainly go un-noticed in most gardens such as the springtail Dicyrtomina saundersi.

Migrants and Range Expanders

Long term monitoring of a single site, even a small garden, provides an insight into the changes in species we are seeing due to climate change and other environmental factors. A number of migrant species are being recorded in greater numbers, and some previous migrants have become resident to these shores.

For the last 4 years I have been moth trapping the previously rare migrant the Tree Lichen Beauty has been tuning up each summer in significant numbers, and it is known to be breeding in some English southern counties. I am hoping one day to find its caterpillars feeding on lichen in our garden

I have recorded Clancy’s Rustic for the first time this year. A species of southern Europe its range has been expanding northwards significantly and is now a breeding British species.

New Arrivals and Rarities

Most weeks I am lucky enough to add a few new species to the list and occasionally something quite rare (or at least very under recorded) turns up. This October was a good month for these. While searching for springtails in leaf litter I found the first pseudoscorpion I have ever seen, the Dimple-clawed Chthonid (Ephippiochthonius tetrachelatus) is one of the UKs most common pseudoscorpion but their small size and hidden lifestyle mean they are rarely seen.

Ero tuberculata is a pirate spider. These small spiders raid other spiders webs and feed on the occupant. This spider is thought to be in decline due to the loss of its main habitat (heathland) and there would appear the only other county record was from Wicken Fen in 1999.

Some of the new arrivals are a very long way from home. There are 3 British species of thread-legged bug, but Empicoris rubromaculatus is not one of them. This is a North American species that seems to have established itself in the UK with a small number of records scattered in the southern England.

Is there anything special about these gardens?

The answer to this is no, a similar number of species can probably be found in any typical Cambridge garden of similar size providing it does not have manicured lawns and uses few or no pesticides.

In the case of my garden I have taken the additional step of introducing more native plant species in order to provide a food source for more native invertebrates. An old non native hedge has been replaced by one containing hazel, blackthorn, hawthorn, bird cherry and dog rose. I have also turned over part of the lawn to a wild meadow patch.

Adding these native species is definitely paying off as I have recorded new visitors that were extremely unlikely to appear before. A couple of examples of this Brown Argus Butterflies and the handsome longhorn beetle Pseudovadonia livida.