It's a bug's life

Shooting Times & Country|May 13, 2020

It's a bug's life
Paying a bit more attention to creepy-crawlies could reap great benefits for your shoot
MIKE SWAN

The advertising blurb announces: “This crop is great for insects.” But which insects is it referring to? Since there are more insect species than all the rest of the world’s animals put together, it stands to reason that no one cover crop, nor even a mixture, can be good for them all.

Insects are fashionable. My inbox has a missive from a wildlife trust telling me 41% of insect species are at risk of extinction. I suspect that is an exaggeration, and that many are rare, so the 41% does not imply that scale of decline in overall numbers or biomass.

Still, that does not detract from the worry. As a community, we who shoot can do a good deal to show our conservation credentials by doing little extra things that help, even if there is limited direct benefit from the shoot point of view.

The building blocks of life for many of the birds we hope to support are not the buzzy things, but soft squidgy creepy-crawly critters such as caterpillars. These are high-protein, high-energy foods that are easy to catch in good numbers, allowing rapid growth from being a chick.

For game chicks and ducklings, these little slow-moving lumps of food are crucial to early survival. There is just enough movement to catch the eye, but not enough speed to getaway. Songbirds with a brood to feed also need to be able to gather big numbers quickly to satisfy hungry mouths.

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May 13, 2020