Roots 'n' Shoots: December 2013

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Look What the Cat Dragged In: Francolin & FreeMe

Whisker Flower: Diesel
There was a huge ruckus late on the 8th of December (round about midnight) as one of the cats had a bird outside the bedroom window. We went to chase the cat away (culprit was Diesel – one of the sun worshippers) and he abandoned his prey (they know if we find them with prey we take it away, teaches them not to bring it home for us to witness the gruesome acts) – anyways – it was a baby chick of some sort.

We took the chick inside, probably about 4 weeks old and it looked way to much like a chicken chick (it had a comb) to me, but his rescuer insisted that he made sounds more melodious than a chicken. I checked him over and found two small flesh wounds, but nothing serious. I gave him a bit of antibiotics that we have for the chickens (Tylosin Tartrate Plus Phenix for Mycoplasma infections) with lots of protesting from his side. Afterwards we put him in a box with a blankie and I stowed him high in my cupboard in my bedroom (where the cats won’t get him) and left him in peace for the rest of the night.

Francolin Chick

In the morning I was surprised to see that he made it through the night, usually we lose the cat victims to stress, which indicated that this was a strong chick. I transferred him to another ‘more open’ container (plastic picnic basket) so that he can get some light and we locked him in one of the workrooms in the house away from the cats. I initially left him with food to see if he’ll eat himself, but after a while I gave him some mushy chicken pellets. I assumed he was full when he was eyeing me through slits and stopped complaining. I left him to digest his food while I phoned around for a rehab centre we could take him to. Meanwhile his rescuer was paging through our bird books and found that he might be a Francolin (Swainson’s we think).

Swainson's Francolin
Pternistis swainsonii 
Wikimedia Commons
Winfried Bruenken (Amrum)
I noticed another odd thing going on with his feet – not cat induced – he is a polydactyl. ‘Poly’ means many or more and ‘dactyl’ means digit (fingers or toes). Polydactyly is a genetic condition (not inherited thought, a developmental error as an embryo) and usually involves the addition of one extra finger (thumb, middle or pinkie) or toes (first or last). The additional digit is normally redundant and not functional, which is attached by skin and nerves to the hand/foot, but baby Francolin is one of a few polydactyls that developed a functional and ‘normal’ looking extra digit. It should come in handy when scratching as part of his earth-moving equipment J.
Polydactyl foot with extra digit
He went back into the original dark box to minimise travel stress and we took him to the Bird Gardens at Montecasino. They don’t do rehab there, but they take ‘drop-offs’ for a rehab centre further away. I wouldn’t have mind to raise baby Francolin myself, but with the odds of 4 predators in the house it seemed better to take him to people with the knowledge and facilities to raise chicks. I can't keep him with the chickens because he is very small and they'll likely hurt him and peck on him because he would be the sole new member of the flock. I felt like asking to see their facilities and evaluating their qualifications before I left baby Francolin… Strange how quickly you become attached, I fed him a few times and I already felt like his guardian.

.... Then on the evening of the 11th we heard chick sounds all to familiar coming from outside. So we raced out to save yet another Francolin chick from the same culprit. One of us tackled the cat and the other grabbed the chick. This time round the chick was much larger and was less injured, so I followed the same routine as with the previous baby, except that he/she happily ate by themselves the next morning. Then we were off to the rehab centre directly - FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre - were the two polydactyl chicks were reunited. Yay! J

FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is located within the Rietfontein Nature Reserve and has been rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing Gauteng's indigenous wildlife since 1997 (that's 16 years!!!). They are passionate about wildlife and conservation. If you are interested in donating to their worthy cause, please see the brochure below:

The FreeMe wildlife rehabilitation centre has a website, which has information on their facility and rehabilitation efforts. They collaborate with many veterinary clinics who treat their animals pro bono and drop-offs can be made at these veterinary clinics for the rehab centre (specifics on the web) - because the centre may be far-out for many animal lovers in Gauteng. The website also provides how-to's on saving baby birds and baby mammals as well as reporting wildlife crime and spottings. After dropping off the second Francolin chick at the rehab centre itself I was certain that they were in good hands. BTW after they are all grown up they will be released at the Kromdraai Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve.

Good luck baby Francolins and I hope your journey back to the wild will be speedy!

P.S Diesel had a good pep talk about leaving baby Francolins with their parents and we hope not to receive more during the following nights... J

From their how-to save animals pages
"To find a wildlife rehabilitator in your area, contact:
083 558 5658 (All hrs)
011 807 6993 (Off hrs)
011 807 6814 (Off hrs)"

Related posts

Whisker Flowers
Roots 'n' Shoots B-day

If you enjoy the content please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers or Follow Your Way widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! J

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The C Files: How to raise chickens – Housing and Coops

Confined chicken coop
Whether you provide a coop built from reclaimed materials or purchase a high-end fancy-schmancy chicken manor, all coops must fulfil a specific set of chicken requirements. Here I provide information on all requirements for any chicken housing, some additional optional(s) and provide basic designs to get you started.

Know what you need

There is no ‘perfect, one-size fits all chicken coop’. That is where your needs and limits determine the final design of your chicken coop. There are a few things you need to consider before jumping into building or purchasing a coop:

1)     Local bylaws. Municipal by-laws exist in every town/city and may entail a detailed plan for coop construction. The coop design and construction may be limited by the number of chickens or possible locations (such as, not close to your neighbour’s bedroom!). Here is the pdf for the local by-laws of Johannesburg (and the surrounding area), chickens are on pages 60-62.

2)     Location. Where would you like to have your chicken coop? Against a wall, which may provide one of the walls of the coop? Or out in the open, which requires a sturdy foundation. The amount space available in the yard may limit the amount of chickens you can keep and the final size of the coop.

3)     Weather. You need to build a coop that can withstand your climatic conditions. If you live in areas with cold winters or hot summers it may require some insulation to limit the effects of temperature on your chickens inside. Heavy wind and rains will require sturdy and rot-proof construction.

4)     Mobile or stationary. Mobile chicken coops (known as tractors) assist with confining chickens for protection or for pasture management. Stationary coops remain in place as permanent shelter for chickens and are sturdier than mobile coops.

Mobile chicken coop

5)     Predators. Identifying possible chicken predators will also assist with designing a safe chicken coop. Animals such as birds of prey, foxes, mongoose, baboons, monkeys and large wild/feral cats each require certain alterations to the coop in order to keep them out.

6)     Chickens. The amount and breed of chicken is directly correlated to the size and space needed in the coop. More chickens or larger breeds necessitate larger coops.

7)     Purpose. Chickens acquired for egg purposes (layers) will have different needs and different coop designs than chickens kept for meat (broilers). Hens are smaller and require nesting boxes, whereas cocks are larger and noisier (might affect where you are allowed to construct your coop according to by-laws). If you want to breed and raise chicks, additional housing needs to be provided for broody chickens, incubators, chick raising houses and hens with chicks need to be separated from the rest of the flock for safety.

Coop Necessities

All chicken coops must have the following in order to have happy healthy chickens:

1)      Enough space for each chicken

The space needed for each chicken depends on their age and breed. The more space your chickens have, the happier and healthier they will be. Space allows members in the low ranking of the pecking order to escape bullies and hide. If you have several cocks, large coops allow each of them to have their own space and boss around their hens without being it one another’s faces and less fighting will occur. Additional space allows chickens to scratch and be occupied until they are let out for the day to minimise pecking.

                         Coop dimensions
Coop with run/yard*
Confined coop*

m2 per bird
Birds per m2
m2 per bird
Birds per m2
                         * Measurements based on fully grown chickens (21 weeks +)
                            Based on Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow (2010).

2)      Good ventilation

Chickens have a higher respiration rate than most other animals and good ventilation is important. Doors and windows provide ventilation for the coop. This limits the build-up of disease organisms, ammonia and/or dust from the litter, skin and feathers of the chickens. Good ventilation prevents respiratory problems. Ventilation also helps to regulate the coop temperature and windows allow light into the coop. Doors can also be fitted with mesh wire or window screens to increase ventilation during the summer months. Windows can be made to slide or tilt to open and close during bad weather.

3)      Free from drafts

Drafts inside the coop will affect chicken health, especially if the chickens have gotten wet during rain. Drafts blowing onto wet chickens will make them ill. So limit drafts in your coop design or adjust your coop with panelling to minimise drafts.

4)      Stable and comfortable temperature to shelters chickens from wind and sun

This goes hand in hand with good ventilation, extreme cold or hot weather will have adverse effects on chickens. Chickens prefer temperatures between 20-25oC (70-75oF) and casualties may occur when their bodies exceed temperatures of 35oC (95oF). The coop temperature range should preferably stay between 5-28oC (41-82oF).  Additional shade can be provided by free-standing shelters on the property (known as range shelter and can be a roof on posts with a water fountain.) Chickens should be able to shelter from rain as well, especially in the afternoon. Chickens should not be allowed to go to bed wet, else they become ill.

Note: Body temperature and ambient temperature are not equal (i.e. 35oC outside does not mean your chickens’ bodies are at 35oC).

5)      Protects chickens from predators

Chicken coops can be raised 0.5-1 meters from the ground to limit access by predators. Raised coops also prevent rodents from nesting under the coop. Chicken runs or confinement with fencing allows additional protection of birds from daytime predators. Flying predators or those with opposable thumbs (monkeys, baboons and some unsavoury Homo sapiens) will need to be kept out by fencing the roof of the run as well and the doors/windows need to be secured with locks. Posts and fencing can be buried to limit predators from digging underneath the fence.

Permanent chicken coop
6)      Allows light in during the day

Chicken maturity; the amount, size, age and production capacity of egg laying pullets is affected by the amount of total daytime light they receive. Eight to ten hours of daylight is sufficient for healthy chickens.

7)      Provides adequate roosting space

Chickens roots naturally at night on tree branches. Roosting maintains correct body posture and keeps chickens away from droppings. Light breeds will be able to fly up and reach high roosting perches whereas heavier breed will require roosts lower to the ground. Chickens should have adequate roosting space to rest peacefully. Perches can be 5-6 cm in diameter (2-2.5 inches) for regular chicken breeds and 2 -3 cm (0.8-1.2 inch) for bantams. Each chicken should have 25 cm (10 inches) of perching space. Larger breeds do well with 30 cm (12 inches).

8)      Enough clean nesting space for chickens to lay eggs

Nest boxes should be darker than the surrounding coop where hens feel safe and away from prying eyes. Nests allow for easy collection and straw or pet bedding reduces the chance of eggs being broken. You should supply one nest for every four hens. (Although there are two nest boxes, our chickens all prefer to lay in the same nest and will queue to do so J). Nest boxes should be higher than the surrounding coop and make sure that they are waterproof. Special nest-boxes can be designed with a double floor. The top one has nesting material and a grate, the bottom floor is slanted and directs the eggs away from the chicken when they are laid to keep them clean.

  Nest box dimensions
Width, cm (inch)
Height, cm (inch)
Depth, cm (inch)
40 (16)
40 (16)
35 (14)
35 (14)
40 (16)
35 (14)
30 (12)
35 (14)
30 (12)

9)      Clean feeders and water fountains

Clean feed and water is essential to all animals. Please refer to my Feed & Water article for complete information.

Basic chicken coop

10)  Easy to access and clean

Coops should preferably be a comfortable human height. This makes access to eggs, feed, water, chickens (for health checks) and easier cleaning… something we didn’t do, I always end up with a kink in my back after cleaning.

11)  Will not flood or become mucky when it rains

You don’t want your chickens to wash away neither should mud be tread into the coop by humans or chickens. It makes for unsanitary conditions.

12)  Litter/bedding

Pet bedding, chopped straw and wood shavings are placed on the floor of the coop and under perches. This helps to keep coops clean, as they stick to manure and are easier to sweep. Bedding, or litter, also absorbs excess moisture, provides some insulation and cushions chicken feet. A good source of coop litter is well-dried, untreated (by chemicals) lawn clippings. A good layer of litter (5 cm or 2 inches) can be added under perches to compensate for the increased droppings. If you like; you can install a tray system to collect droppings under the roosts (which take the most hammering as chickens do most of their dropping-business at night) and this will make for easy clean up.


Pop hole/chicken door

A wide chicken-sized door can be added to the coop for chicken-friendly access and to keep out larger animals (dogs or goats). It also reduces drafts and can be easily automated.

Confined chicken coop with pop hole

Automations (doors, windows, fans, lights, electric fencing)

With the advent of modern technology; windows, doors and lights can be set to automatically open or turn on depending on the amount of light captured by their sensors (or “eyes”). Doors will open at dawn and close at dusk after chickens have entered the coop to roost for the night. Windows can open and close when temperatures fluctuate to control the coop environment. Fans can be installed for additional ventilation and temperature control, whereas electrical fencing can scare off potential predators.

Rain water collection

If you design your coop with a slanted roof (to prevent pooling and direct water away from the doors) you can add a gutter and water collection tank to catch any rain from the roof. The water, which is clean and fresh, can be used to supplement the chickens’ water need or used in the garden.

Edible bedding

Some of the litter in the coop can be substituted with edible straw (such as wheat, rye, oat, buckwheat or even alfalfa). This provides additional nutrition to the birds (green manures can be dried for fodder) and gives chickens something to do till the coop door opens.


Droppings and litter can be added to the compost heap. After it has decomposed, chicken manure is invaluable as fertiliser for vegetable gardens.

Basic Coop Designs

Here are some illustrations and brief explanations to some basic designs for your chicken coop. Alternatively pre-made coops can be purchased or Wendy-houses/sheds can be re-purposed to house chickens.

Below is a design for a stationary chicken coop. It provides permanent shelter and can be outfitted with a rain water harvesting tank.

Basic Stationary Chicken Coop

Here is another stationary coop design, known as a chicken tractor. It is more suited to a small garden or a small flock.

Stationary Chicken Tractor
The stationary chicken tractor can be modified to sport wheels or skids and can be moved manually or by draft animals. This system allows limited chicken grazing, to prevent them scratching a garden to dusts and forms part of a farm’s pasture management.

Mobile Chicken Tractor
Henmobile or Eggmobile or EggCart

A pre-made coop from the Omlet range ( They have all-kinds of shapes, sizes, stationary and mobile coops is bright colours. Omlet also provides housing for other pets (hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits) and other animals (bees).

The Omlet Eglu range of pre-made chicken coops

Last Notes

No chicken coop need be plain, boring or an eye-sore. A little bit of paint and some creative thinking can turn a coop into a garden show piece. The Internet is bursting with all kinds of coop designs; from simple ones like I have here to brightly coloured, massive mansions with pillars and terraces! One of the blogs I am following: The Garden Roof Coop, and the Backyard Chickens website is a good place to start looking for some cool and practical coop designs.

Large chicken coop with run

Additional measurements and a similar 'basic stationary coop' design can be found in Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow (2010).

Previous articles in this series

Food & Water

Did my gardening advise work? Want to donate to Roots &Shoots?

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Click on the image above to donate via a bobBucks Voucher or an Amazon eGift Card to Thanx! I really appreciate it! Every little bit makes a difference, even as little as $5 or R10 :)


Please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! 😆

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Little White Butterflies

Where do the white butterflies come from? Where do the white butterflies go?

Brown Veined White Butterfly on pompoms
Belenois aurota
Every year in South Africa, during December-January, little white butterflies take to the air in their thousands, all flying in the same direction. They visit gardens and flowers along the way. Even though it is a yearly occurrence, many people don’t know why it happens.

Brown Veined White Butterfly on statice
Belenois aurota

This is the migratory flight of the Brown Veined White Butterfly, Belenois aurota (AKA Pioneer white, African Caper White and in Afrikaans: Grasveldwitjie). They belong to the Pieridae (the ‘Whites’) family of butterflies and migrate north-east over the interior of South Africa.

Brown Veined White Butterfly 
Belenois aurota

During good rainy seasons, the butterflies’ population is bolstered by the abundance of leaves for caterpillars on host plants (Capparaceae: specific genera include; Boscia, Shepard’s trees; Maerua, endemic trees of Mozambique and Capparis, Caper shrubs). These caterpillars subsequently metamorphose into butterflies.

Brown Veined White Butterfly 
Belenois aurota

Caper Bush
Capparis spinosa
Botanical Flora von Deutschland Osterreich un der Schweiz
Kurt Stober's Online Library
The adults mate and lay eggs on the host species (they breed before they fly). Afterwards they begin their migration. They fly and continue to fly until they succumb to complete exhaustion.  If they get sufficient food along the way, making pit stops in gardens, they can fly as far out to the Mozambique Channel and perish in the Indian Ocean.

Brown Veined White Butterfly 
Belenois aurota

Migratory Route

After a few years of migrating eastwards they will turn around and migrate back again. So the cycle continues and white butterflies take to the sky. I will update this post as soon as the first of the whites appear this year.

Brown Veined White Butterfly 
Belenois aurota
This is about the only time we really get any butterflies in the garden. There was another little visitor, the Yellow Pansy, Junonia hierta.
Yellow Pansy
Junonia hierta

Related Posts
If you want to provide flowers (food) for the travelers' annual journey or want to attract more butterflies and bees to your garden then see my Insectary post for more information.

Butterfly & Bee friendly plants
Excellent refueling stations for wary travelers
See my Insectary post for additional plant options & info

- Update 08 Jan 2014 - 

The Butterflies are here! The white butterflies have started migrating through Gauteng. The first drips and drabs have been fluttering about today... more still to come!

- Update 11 Jan 2014 - 

The masses have made their way to Roodepoort. The chickens try their best to catch some who flutter to close to the ground, but to no avail - very amusing to watch them race after the little whites.

- Update 12 Jan 2014 - 

Watch Out Pretoria! The white could of fluttering wings are upon you!

- Update 14 Jan 2014 -

Sadly, the butterfly run has come to an end. Updates again next season!

Did my gardening advise work? Want to donate to Roots &Shoots?

Amazon eGift Card
bobBucks Voucher

Click on the image above to donate via a bobBucks Voucher or an Amazon eGift Card to Thanx! I really appreciate it! Every little bit makes a difference, even as little as $5 or R10 :)


Please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! 😆

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Insectary: Beneficial Insects & Garden Security Force

The Wildlife Garden - How to attract beneficial insects to your garden

Integrative Pest Management (IPM) is the use of multiple pest preventative measures, such as diverse crop planting, crop rotation, green manures and responsible pesticide use. Enlisting the help of beneficial insects is also used to control pest populations and improve crop production.

Insectaries are plants that provide housing, shelter and food for beneficial insects. They do not only attract insects to the garden, but provide an area for them to establish themselves and remain in the garden. Insectaries are great for attracting a myriad of wildlife to the garden, such as bees, butterflies, various other pollinators (wasps, flies and beetles) as well as predatory insects such as hover flies, ladybirds, praying mantids and spiders.

I have tried many of the artificial insect home designs, most remain unoccupied, even after being in the garden for two years. The only one that has been populated is House Wasp, see here for details. I have noticed that the insects prefer plants to purpose built insect homes and I have decided to rather make an insectary in my garden.

Several scientific studies have recorded the successes of these insectaries. Insectaries increase the amount of beneficial insects by 10-fold as compared to plots without one (AKA the control plot). Mortality of pest insects due to predation and parasitism was double as compared to the controls. The beneficial insect numbers remain the same, even if no flowers were present, indicating that they do not leave if no pollen or nectar rewards are present. (Ref 1)

One thing to keep in mind is that the insectary should provide food – not only pollen and nectar, but prey items too. This means that you must incorporate plants that attract pests (sink or source plants); also known as sacrificial or decoys among companion planting. If you do not provide food – the predators will leave. This also means no chemical pesticides!

Another tip is to leave the insectary undisturbed, with minimal pruning of the plants. There is a 75-95% reduction of spiders, parasitic wasps, ladybug adults and larvae in clear-cut plots when compared to strip harvest plots (Ref 2).

A successful insectary has the following characteristics:
ü    Plants provide blooms throughout the year
ü    Plants of varying size and height provide shelter for insects in different niches
ü    Is a long term and permanent feature of the garden
ü    Densely planted and interconnected by plants with little disturbance
ü    Provides small flowers for parasitoids (insect parasites), hover flies, wasps and robber flies
ü    Provides large and long flowers for butterflies, bees and flies.
ü    Provides sturdy herbaceous shrubs for mantids to lay their egg casings against
ü    Provides perennial and annual plants
ü    Diverse types of plants (usually 6-7 types)

Dill flowers

(Niche: Spatial or dietary condition where specific organisms are found, such as tree-dwelling, ground-dwelling, carnivore or herbivore.)

There are specific plants that attract specific pests. The best way to design your insectary is to known:
1)                  Which pests you struggle with
2)                  Predators of your problem pests
3)                  Plants that attract predators and those can act as decoys for pests
4)                  Cost and maintenance of these plants

On that note; here is a table with pest predators and the plants that can help:

Predator or Parasitoids
Parasitoid wasp, Parasitoid midge, Damsel bugs (Nabidae),  Dicyphus bugs (Miridae), Hoverflies, Lacewings, Ladybugs (Ladybird or Lady Beetle), Pirate Bugs (Flower bugs, Anthocoridae), Baby mantids
Mantids, Ground beetles, Paper wasps (Vespidae), Mud daubers wasps (Sphecidae), Parasitoid wasp
Eggs of pest insects
Damsel bugs (Nabidae), Parasitoid wasp, Hover fly larvae
Damsel bugs (Nabidae), Mantids, Spiders, Lacewings, Ladybugs (Ladybird or Lady Beetle), Mud daubers wasps (Sphecidae)
Mealy Bugs
Mealy bug ladybird, Parasitoid wasp, Lacewings
Red spider mites
Predatory mites, Dicyphus bugs (Miridae), Ladybugs (Ladybird or Lady Beetle), Pirate Bugs (Flower bugs, Anthocoridae)
Scale bugs
Lacewings, Ladybugs (Ladybird or Lady Beetle), Parasitoid wasp
Ground beetles, Predatory snails (Rumina decollate)
Dicyphus bugs (Miridae), Parasitoid wasp

Damsel bugs (Nabidae)
Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel)
Dicyphus bugs (Miridae)
Digitalis (Foxglove), Verbascum thapsus (Great or common mullein).
Ground beetles
Amaranthus (Amaranth) or ground covers (creeping thyme, oregano)
Aurinia saxatilis (Golden Alyssum), Convolvulus minor (Dwarf morning glory), Cosmos bipinnatus (Garden Cosmos), Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace, wild carrot)+, Iberis umbellate (Candy Tuft), Limonium latifolium (Statice), Lupinus spp. (Lupin), Petroselinum crispum (Parsley).
Ladybugs (Ladybird or Lady Beetle)
Mealy bug ladybird*
Achillea filipendulina  (Yarrow), Anethum graveolens (Dill), Convolvulus minor (Dwarf morning glory), Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace, wild carrot)+, Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel), Tanacetum vulgare (Tansy)
Achillea filipendulina (Yarrow), Angelica gigas (Angelica), Anethum graveolens (Dill), Cosmos bipinnatus (Garden Cosmos), Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace, wild carrot)+, Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel), Tanacetum vulgare (Tansy)
Sturdy herbaceous herbs (Rosemary, Basil, Lavender)
Paper wasps
Aggregate fruit flowers (Raspberry, Strawberry, Dewberry and Blackberry)
Parasitoid midge
Anethum graveolens (Dill), Lupinus spp. (Lupin)
Parasitoid wasp
Achillea filipendulina  (Yarrow), Anethum graveolens (Dill), Cosmos bipinnatus (Garden Cosmos), Lupinus spp. (Lupin), Helianthus annuus (Sunflower), Limonium latifolium (Statice), Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm), Petroselinum crispum (Parsley)
Pirate Bugs (Flower bugs, Anthocoridae)
Helianthus annuus (Sunflower), Leucanthemum X superbum (Shasta daisy)
Predatory mites*
Helianthus annuus (Sunflower), Leucanthemum X superbum (Shasta daisy)
Predatory snails (Rumina decollate)*
Burrows in the soil.
Structural plants – Our Sterlitzea and herbs (basil and rosemary) provide shelter and web support.
*Can be purchased
+ Flowers with similar structure: Ammi majus (Bishop flower), Anthriscus sylvestris (Cow parsley)

The table is a generalised list of plants to attract insects. It is the flower shape and structure and the specific species that attracts beneficial insects. Many small flowers in Umbels (umbrella shaped) attract predatory insects, such as lady bugs, hoverflies, parasitoids.  Most of the plants used to attract insects belong to the Parsley family (Apiaceae), for pollen and nectar, or the Aromatic herb family (Lamiaceae), for shelter and housing. Sacrificial plants include rue, nasturtiums, milkweed, marigold and the mustard family. Alliums (Onions, garlic, chives) also produce lovely umbel flowers.

Carrot flowers
Daucus carota

Umbel flowers & Candy Tuft
Note on parasitoids: Parasitic wasps and midges are good biological control agents that can be easily purchased for garden release. The problems with them are that they need specific temperatures and humidities. The wind will blow them away and they will fly away without attacking pests when released into the garden, which make them more suited to indoor greenhouse use than for the conventional vegetable garden.

Several plant species are better suited than others to attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. Yarrow, Angelica, Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii), Sunflowers, Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), Rosemary (Rosmatinus officinalis), Basil (Ocimum basilicum), Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and Tall Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) are the most effective at attracting butterflies, bees, bumble bees, hoverflies and moths. I am not going to plant butterfly-specific plants as our area has a general deficit in these. Basil and Lavender produce flowers throughout the year, whereas Dill and Fennel can be planted in autumn and winter, and the Sterlitzea  and Aloes are late flowering (winter).

Sterlitzea visited by Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
So in my garden I have issues with aphids, whitefly, leafhoppers, scale bugs and caterpillars. This means I am going to try a combination of: Lavender, Dill, Buddleja, Mints, Creeping thyme, Mint-Basil, Alfalfa, Parsley and Fennel. I also planted a sea lavender, iceplants (AKA plakkie: Aptenia hybrid 'Red apple') and rose mosses (Portulaca grandiflora).  I have raspberries in the garden already. I have a range of other ornamentals and herbs in the garden that I do allow to flower for a short time, which should also double as ‘mini and temporary’ insectaries.

Remember that your insectary will also appreciate some pruning (3Ds) (during winter) and fertilisation (I think once a month should suffice).

The insects discussed here have already or will feature in Pest of the Month or Garden Critter of the Month articles; such as Mantids, WaspsLeafhoppers and Flies have already been covered. Otherwise you can check out my Pest Control page for some organic pest control recipes to complement your insectary and IPM.

Onion Flower
Allium cepa

- Note -

Before I purchased the Butterfly bush, statice (sea lavender) and rose mosses there were nasturtiums and indigenous edible flowers (Daisies and Marigolds) in there places. I plucked these out because they either didn't flower properly or I had to deadhead them every day and they used way to much water in my opinion. Hence why I opted for more water friendly, long flowering and low-maintenance plants.

My Insectary as of Yesterday (6 Dec). It has been growing since August.

Latest Insectary Resident

Which pests plague your garden? Would you make space for an insectary in your garden?

- Update 05 January 2014 -

If you struggle with getting any of these specific plant cultivars, I have found that the best way to get other alternatives is to check were masses of bees are in the nurseries or garden centres. A few winners are:

A: False Heather, Cuphea mexicana. These are small-medium bushed that can be easily shaped with white, pink and purple flowers.
B: Garden Heliotrope, Heliotropium species (likely arborescens). These are beautiful dark green plants with large leaves and big clusters of small purple flowers.
C & D: Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii. Wonderful plants with silver foliage and usually lilac flowers. New varieties are always available in nurseries, including a lovely white and striking magenta. They love the sun and are super water-friendly as well, suitable for xeriscaping.

Butterfly and Bee Friendly plants
Very similar inflorescence (arrangement of flowers)
Tiny flowers with lots of nectar = insect buffet

My magenta butterfly bush's flowers are open yet, will post once they do. Also, the butterfly bushes have lovely perfumed flowers.

Another firm favourite is the Mealy Sage or Mealycup Sage, Salvia farinacea. It comes in a lilac and deep purples (or true blue) and they have a delicate aroma as well.

Mealy or MealyCup Sage
Salvia farninacea

Some plants aren't readily available as seedlings, but their are some seeds available; such as

Verbena species (hybrida likely): Comes in all kinds of colours and are very striking in the garden.

Statice sinuata (Sea Lavender): Annual variety with long papery flower spikes that last forever as cut flowers (dry in vase without loosing colour). Also they come in a huge variety of colours. Another sun loving plant that is super water efficient. You might also notice them growing wild in the bushveld!

Or, you can just pick up a bumper pack of bird, bee or butterfly flower garden mixes.

Variety of seeds available for you wildlife garden
Statice, Verbena & mixes

P.S - Do note that if you want reputable vegetable seeds, then Stark Ayres seeds are the superior option, as for flowers, grab what you can get your paws on! J

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