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Wildlife musings

from our Nature and Wildlife Correspondent, Sally Worby


Healthy soils store vast amounts of carbon and take carbon out of the air helping combat global warming. Unfortunately, turning soils over during weeding or ploughing damages the structure, killing vital bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi while releasing carbon dioxide. Look after your soil; no-dig really can be a life-saver!


No-mow protects soil, reduces erosion and nurtures essential microbes it also keeps soils cooler and damper.No mow-soil surface temperature can be 15C cooler than mowed lawns and a great deal cooler than exposed soils!

(No-dig, no-mow – the way this is going I'll have no need to do any gardening at all! Ed)


Did you know that grass has parasites: yellow rattle, red and yellow bartsia, eyebright and lousewort weaken grasses and make room for more delicate wild flora. Click here for more information on the UK's parasitic meadow plants.

Butterflies and Moths

At this time of year hopefully you'll be seeing lots of both. However the charity Butterfly Conservation reports a 40% decline in abundance with 50% of UK species now red-listed meaning we're losing these iconic creatures.

Butterflies and moths have essential roles in food webs. Leave a wild place in your garden for the caterpillars to mature and pupae to overwinter.

Using Another's Defence!

Cinnabar caterpillars eat ragwort and store the plant's toxins in their bodies, retaining it even after pupating into the adult moth. The toxins in the growing plant make it bitter and unpalatable and it is usually avoided. But the cinnabar caterpillars feast upon ragwort without ill effect. They actually benefit from its toxicity by eating enough of it to become toxic themselves.


Red and yellow or red and black on insects warn birds not to eat them. The cinnabar caterpillar's colourful stripes are a warning to predators: I'm poisonous and taste terrible, don't try to eat me!

Sally operates the Graceful Badger Forest School in Drayton Woods with Wilderwoods and Central Somerset Outdoor Learning Partnership. For more information click here under 'other'.

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