Do insects prefer native plants? A study into the garden plant origin preferences of invertebrates
Why do we need the research?
Biodiversity is being reduced on a global scale – but the good news is that gardens provide a haven for some species. Wildlife gardening is not just about putting up bird boxes or bug hotels – growing plants is just as important.
It’s confusing to know what is best to plant.
I think the results page here from the first two papers they have published contains some interesting results:
A snippet one:
Key messages for gardeners from Paper One (pollinating insects)
- The best strategy for gardeners wanting to support pollinating insects in gardens is to plant a mix of flowering plants from different countries and regions.
Emphasis should be given to plants native to the UK and the northern hemisphere, though exotic plants from the southern hemisphere can be used to extend the season (there are a greater proportion of exotic plants flowering later in the season compared to UK native and northern hemisphere plants) and provide nectar and pollen for some specific pollinators.
- Regardless of plant origin (native or non-native), the more flowers a garden can offer throughout the year, the greater the number of bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects it will attract and support.
Key messages for gardeners from Paper Two (plant-dwelling invertebrates)
Findings on the abundance of invertebrates that are found on the plants, including those feeding on living plant material, on decomposing organic matter, and on other invertebrates, was published in Biodiversity and Conservation.
Plant a predominance of plants native to the UK.
- Planting schemes that are based on plants originating from the Northern Hemisphere (near-natives) may support only marginally fewer (less than 10%) invertebrates in some functional groups (including herbivores and some predators) than UK native plant schemes. Plant schemes based on Southern Hemisphere (exotic) plants will still support a good number of invertebrates, albeit around 20% fewer than plants from the UK.
- Regardless of plant origin, the more densely a plant scheme is planted or allowed to grow, the more invertebrates of all kinds (herbivores, predators, detritivores and omnivores) it will support.
For both pollinators and insects alike the “plants native to the UK” seem to be important along with “more flowers”.