8. Create or Explore a Watery Habitat
It might be clear by week eight that you are not expected to literally complete each task in the space of one week! Most of them are tasters of simple, positive practices you might incorporate into your life. If they even start a conversation about an aspect of the Biosphere, you are doing the challenge correctly.
The eighth task is a chance to take the first steps towards a project, which you can undertake on any scale. Create a wetland habitat of any size, or get to know a local river, lake or puddle and the flora and fauna it supports.
Owen Kelly runs a garden design business called Sod It, based in West Cork. He announced this task with an inspiring and informative video about creating his own garden pond, see it here.
Water is an essential resource for nature that is often lacking in our urban and suburban gardens or deliberately removed from farmland and parks. Different plants and animals require different types of water bodies, from ephemeral puddles to expansive lakes, and from squelchy bogs to flowing rivers.
For many pollinating insects, such as thirsty bees and certain hoverflies, providing even a small amount of water near your home can make a huge difference.
Ellie Rotheray is a researcher in the Buzz Club at University of Sussex. It is “a citizen science club, bringing together gardeners and volunteer scientists of all ages to answer important questions about garden wildlife."
In our fourth webinar, Life Underwater, Ellie showed us the easiest way to offer a wetland habitat to your local pollinators. The hoverfly lagoon consists of a tub, such as a plastic milk bottle cut in half, with a bunch of dead plant matter stuffed into it. This forms a habitat suitable for the larvae of at least seven different hoverfly species to occupy, boosting populations of these species where their natural habitat - rot holes in old trees - is scarce.
There is a lot to be learnt from observing these curious creatures, as Ellie described in her fascinating presentation, and the Buzz Club wants to hear what turns up in your hoverfly lagoon.
The larvae filter feed on microbes like tiny baleen whales feeding on krill. They are known as rat-tailed maggots, due to their telescopic breathing tubes which reach to the surface of the water.
Ellie thinks they need rebranding. Personally, I think the gruesome name and the facial expressions it would elicit were a big part of the appeal of these insects when I was a child. It’s one of the reasons I still fondly remember observing them in a tub in my family garden.
A hoverfly lagoon in every garden in the Biosphere would create a wonderful chain of habitats for these strikingly stripy insects, and bring hours of amusement to children and adults alike!
Full instructions are available here.