Biodiversity in the Garden – Getting Bugged

Feb 9, 2017Biodiversity0 comments

by Gary Simons

Biodiversity is ubiquitous. Which means that, much like mobile devices these days, we don’t often even notice it.

It everywhere though. Inside you. Yes, you have a gazillion little bugs (good or bad depends on your intestinal health) doing their thing despite what you may think of them, or whether you acknowledge their existence.

On our skin, in our eyebrows, etc. etc. there is microscopic biodiversity. Most of us, unless we took a powerful microscope to our external, or internal for that matter, will never see this marvellous world of a plethora of things. “Just as well”, I hear many say. “Have you seen what some of those microscopic critters look like!?”

Not to worry. There is, also, a marvelous world of biodiversity that we can observe within our very own home space, especially if one has a garden area. Recently Dr John Anderson (being the keen observer that he is) documented, in his own garden, just how diverse the living world of nature is. And this on just one fennel and one parsley plant.

John observed and photographed 11 different insects on the fennel, and 38 on the fennel over a course of a few weeks days. That’s not to mention the moths and butterflies that were just passing by. (Download the PDF documenting this here)

These insects play a critical role in the mesmerizing connectedness, and survival, of the web of life. The loss of bio-diversity through neglect (my!-look-how-beautiful-my-roses-are-because-I’ve-used-poison-to kill-the-bugs-that-eat-them-and-the-bees-etc- just-happen-to-also-be-collateral-damage attitude) is having a catastrophic impact on our potential for future survival as a species. So how does observing the bugs on my plants in any way help alleviate the looming Sixth Extinction.

Here are some thoughts to begin with. And, feel free to add yours in the comments of this blog.

  1. Awareness, and particularly curious awareness, leads to insight, leads to a realisation of what happens if we lose biodiversity, leads to a commitment to play a role in doing something about it. And, we don’t need to go to far flung corners of the world, we can start in nurturing and maintaining biodiversity in our own gardens. If our gardens aren’t wild start to think about how one might make them so. We need more passionate amateur naturalists. These biodiverse gardens can also feed us! See the work (showcased in previous blogs) that Nolo does with permaculture food gardens.
  2. Building fascination amongst one’s kids, neighbour’s kids, grandkids, etc. builds a future generation of aware and active global citizens that are passionate about preserving and enhancing bio-diversity and consequently steering our species away from the current inevitable crisis. Observing bugs, and other things, fosters a calmness of ‘spirit’ in a very fast paced, narcissistically self-referenced world. This calmness positively affects the diversity of the other myriad things we involve ourselves in as human beings.
  3. Build community. Get into each other’s gardens as friends and neighbours and support the growth of the richness of things natural. Maybe you’ll even end up swapping food gluts from what you’re growing. Mmmm…I can smell that vegetable potjiekos.

So in conclusion, perhaps that modern ubiquitous device can be put to good use observing and documenting the oldest ubiquitous thing on the planet…its incredible and beautiful biodiversity. Take photos. Remember Google is your friend, so see what you can identify. And if you can’t, I know this ever curious observer of the natural world  who I’m sure would happily help you if you mailed him your images and stories of garden biodiversity. It’s appropriate and good, then, that I leave the final words in this post to Dr John Anderson. And to say, thank you John for inspiring us all to get really bugged into action. And, to do so regularly.


“Here we see the extraordinary diversity of insect life visiting two species of herb—fennel and parsley of the Apiaceae (carrot family). Mostly they’re feeding on the nectar. (download the pdf of photos here)

Photo’d here are 38 species of insect on the fennel and 11 species on the parsley.

Even in the city there is extraordinary richness if one’s eyes are open to see it! Just like there is wonderful music if one’s ears are open to hear it! Our job is to open all eyes and ears early enough. Then the world will still be here for all the kids of tomorrow’s world!”