RHS Plants for Bugs study – results

Organic gardeners know how important insects are in the growing area. From predators to pollinators, they play a key role in the wildlife ecosystem. But which are the best plants to support insect life?
This major study led by the RHS has been looking at British native and non-native plant varieties. Investigating whether UK invertebrates prefer near-native (Northern Hemisphere) or exotic (Southern Hemisphere) plants.
They looked at pollinating insects, plant-dwelling invertebrates and – most recently – insects which are ground-active ie weevils, beetles and spiders.
Overall results conclude that
  • To support invertebrates in general, gardens should be filled with a range of flower plants from different regions
  • While emphasis should be given to British native and near-native (other northern hemisphere) plants, exotic plants from the southern hemisphere have value as they extend the flowering season and provide some resource to non-pollinating invertebrate groups.
  • Tolerating some nibbled leaves and allowing some plant debris to accumulate will support greater numbers of invertebrates.
“The power of a garden lies in its very smallest inhabitants. Gardeners who look after them will have the greatest positive impact for biodiversity, helping to forge a new generation of wildlife champions.” Andrew Salisbury, RHS Principal Entomologist
The most recent study, which looks at ground dwelling insects found:
  • dense planting supports more ground-active invertebrates (the exception was ground-dwelling spiders, which were found in greater numbers among sparser plantings)
  • native and near-native plants support more ground-active invertebrates than exotic plants
  • planting schemes based on native plants may support a greater abundance of ground-active herbivores than other planting schemes, but ground-active detritivores show no preference.
See here for the Top 7 insects in the garden, and how to attract them.
See here for the RHS Plants for Bugs studies