The amazing unlovables

Common pipistrelle bat © Tom Marshall

Our wildlife comes in all shapes and sizes, and all our species have a part to play in our local ecosystems, even though some aren’t winning any popularity contests. So why not take a second look and embrace some of our unlovable species this autumn.

Slugs and snails and gardeners’ wails

Slugs are often loathed by green-fingered enthusiasts the world over for chewing unsightly holes in our treasured flowers and shrubs. Their appearance is uninspiring at best and they are largely unwelcome in the immaculate show gardens that many of us know and love.

However, in the nature-centred garden (the kind we prefer here at the Wildlife Trust), slugs and snails are very important and should be tolerated. They are a vital food source for all sorts of birds, mammals and reptiles, and are a part of the natural balance. Leave them be and you may be amazed at the wildlife that follows.

Banded snail on leaf

Banded snail © Gemma Paul

Incy wincy spider cleaning up your house

They have inspired some of our best-loved novels, superheroes have been modelled around them, and without them the world might be overrun with swarms of insects. But despite this, spiders carry formidable reputation.

House spiders are incredibly helpful in the house and the garden as they help to keep flies and other pests in check. During the autumn it may seem like there are more spiders in your home than usual, but in actual fact they are just more active.

You might spot them stuck in bath tubs or sinks, or scuttling across the carpet. The chances are that they are males looking for females to mate with. Though they can appear large and sinister, unlike their tropical cousins the UK house spider is harmless.

Out in the garden, you can encourage spiders by providing logs and stone piles for them to live, feed and breed in. Spiders are a food source for many animals, including mammals and birds - encouraging them in your garden provides a vital link in the food chain. You can help your eight-legged houseguests by hanging a towel over the side of the bathtub to help roaming males escape.

house spider

Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

Moths

Moths are often overlooked in favour of their often more glamourous and colourful cousins - butterflies. They are often dismissed as brown and dull, but in fact many species are actually bright and colourful, and with over 2,500 moth species that call Britain home, there's an amazing amount of diversity to be discovered!

Moths are widespread and sensitive to change, making them useful as so-called ‘indicator species’. Monitoring their numbers and ranges can give us vital clues to changes in our environment, such as the effects of pesticides, air pollution and climate change.

If you want to get a closer look at these flighty little visitors, why not set up a simple light trap using a white sheet, washing line and torch?

Oak beauty mothOak beauty moth at Blashford Lakes nature reserve

© Bob Chapman

Bats

Flitting out of the rising darkness like shadows, these nocturnal mammals are as charismatic as they are misunderstood. 16 of the UK’s 18 bat species can be found in Hampshire, including two of Europe’s rarest species, barbastelle and Bechstein bats.

All UK bats are insectivores, which means that insects are the main part of their diet. A common pipistrelle bat can eat over 3,000 insects in just one night! They use their famous echolocation skills to identify and catch their prey, often mid-flight.

Like many species, bats are under threat of losing their homes and food sources. You can help by encouraging insects into your garden to provide food for bats - you could even install a bat box under your building eaves to give them a place to roost.

 

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