Blogger: Adam Murray, Communication Officer

You may find yourself humming the classic Christmas line about a partridge in a pear tree this festive season, but pear trees can be a great gift for all sorts of other wildlife too.

We are encouraging people to think about planting pear trees now, to benefit birds and other garden wildlife in the future.

At the time when most of us are thinking about all the chocolates and mince pies we have been eating, why not think about a healthy, fruity start to the New Year for our wild garden visitors. 

In early spring, pear flowers are brilliant food sources for hungry honeybees, solitary bees and bumblebees.  Providing sources of nectar and pollen early in the season can really help these insects. During summer and autumn birds like thrushes and blackbirds will benefit from the fruit as windfall. The foliage is nibbled by many caterpillars, which later turn into beautiful moths. The adult moths are great food for bats.

Adrian Thomas, wildlife gardening expert from the RSPB says, “What I REALLY like about pear trees is that they are good for us and wildlife – they look great in blossom; the pears taste great, and wildlife can share the bounty.”

Kate Merry, Project Development Officer for Butterfly Conservation, said: “Pears and other fruit trees are fantastic feeding stations for our butterflies and moths. The caterpillars of a number of moths such as the Dark Arches and Vapourer moths feed on the foliage. In the autumn, Red Admiral butterflies can be seen drinking the juices from the fallen fermenting fruit.”

A well-planned garden can provide a mix of areas for wildlife by using plants of different shapes and sizes.  This will provide wildlife with a variety of places in which to feed, shelter and nest. Planting a mixture of different trees and shrubs is a natural and sustainable way to provide year round food for wildlife.

The best time to plant trees and shrubs is right now.  ‘Bare rooted trees’, those not in pots, are the cheapest ones to go for and are best planted before the end of December.

If you don’t have a huge garden and think a tree might take over, follow the example of many urban gardeners and train it alongside a wall.  More and more urban allotments and community gardens are adopting this tactic as the best use of limited space.

The wildlife will still benefit, no matter what shape the tree ends up!

For more information on the RSPB’s Homes for Wildlife, please visit www.rspb.org.uk/hfw

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