\nThey need all the help they can get\nIf you’ve been reading our blog (and of course you have, right?), you’ll know that in some parts of the world, insect populations have declined by more than 75% in the last twenty years. And believe us, that’s actually a bad thing. Bees are a biggy - without them we’d lose three-quarters of our food supply - and we’d all be gone in about four years. Other insects are critical to our survival too - they make the soil we need to grow food, and break down errr... waste products. I’m the first one to put my hand up and say that, no, I don’t love discovering spiders in my bathtub or a praying mantis on my door jamb. But in the abstract, I know how important they are. Here’s what I’ve been doing at home to protect and support insect populations.\n\nGive them something to drink\nFlying is thirsty work! I have shallow bowls of plain water dotted all over my garden. With stones in there, you create perfect landing pads for tiny guys, so they can drink without drowning. If you really want to commit, a pond is one step better (but again, pop some rocks in to prevent mass drowning).\nPlant a butterfly garden\nButterflies are being hit particularly hard. They’re not just pretty, they also do that same crucial pollination job as bees. I’ve planted them a nursery for their eggs by filling the garden with swan plants. I have to keep an eye on caterpillar numbers, though - they’re voracious, and can, quite literally, eat themselves out of house and home! Pro tip: keep half of your swan plants covered so they can’t lay eggs on them. Then transfer the caterpillars over as they eat up the other plants. Other plants to grow for monarchs (for nectar): hebes, salvia and marigolds, and here in NZ thistles are super important for our native species. Most butterflies need two types of plants: a host plant to lay on and nectar plants to feed on. Research the species in your area and plant what you can!\n Plant lots of pollinator plants\n\nWith a garden full of pollin-y plants, you’ll help boost population numbers. I have fruit trees, salvias and flax (which also encourage birds). My favourite: I don’t mow my lawn much. All the clover keeps all kinds of insects happy. Again, this is dependent on where you live, so do a little research first on how to support populations of your native.\n\nStop using poisons \nObviously, pesticides are out - and that includes snail bait. Weed killers are a no-no too - lots can directly harm insects, and they also destroy food sources and habitat. So I’ve let my garden run wild (which suits my lazy tendencies just fine).\nCompost! \nComposting is amazing on so many levels. You reduce what heads out to landfill and produce delicious food for your garden. Meanwhile your heap is heaven for a whole host of important creepy crawlies.\nMulch!\nIf you can, cover your garden with bark chips, rather than leaving it as bare soil. Mulch keeps moisture in the garden, and that makes for happy soil. Mulch also breaks down into beneficial resources for plant and microbe growth, and provides a great habitat for mini beasties.\nKeep pests down \nNot all insects are created equal. Lots of gardens are overrun with introduced pest species which damage native populations. It’s important to find out what’s unwelcome in your local area and take steps to control them (without poisons!)\n\nBut what about my broccoli?!\nI’ve had the experience of nurturing tiny seedlings only to find them eaten down to the stumps overnight! Heartbreaking. Depending on what pest you’re struggling with, there are plenty of natural ways to control them without poison. I use beer traps and marigolds for slugs and old dish water for aphids (I use greywater safe detergent, and it dissolves the aphid egg glue). So put down the spray, and pick up Google to find those all-natural methods.\n\nDon’t have a garden? \nYou can still help! Even a small outside area can become an insect haven, planted out with pollinator-friendly plants. Or maybe make up some seed bombs (watch out for Brianne’s blog next week for more ;)) and do some guerilla gardening around town. \nSave the insects and save the human race\nIt’s not too much to say that without insects we wouldn’t be here - well, not for long, anyway. That’s why it’s important to protect and encourage the little guys who pollinate our crops, create our soil and break down waste. Put away the poison sprays and find ways to support beneficial insects and birds, and discourage the pests. Plant insect-friendly flowers and shrubs, and learn about using mulch and compost to add benefit to your garden and its inhabitants.\nYour health, your vegetables and the earth will thank you.