Today is UN World Environment Day and this year’s theme is biodiversity, focusing on ‘time for nature’. With many at home and unable to travel, Bristol based environmental consultancy Eunomia is calling on Bristolians to open up a bug hotel, and have put together a list of insects to look out for, focussing on those unique to Bristol, and those who share the consultancy’s line of work – turning waste into resources. Eunomia’s Elizabeth Raine, whose PhD in tropical forest insects has been featured in the Economist, came up with the idea.

Elizabeth said: “Although small and easily overlooked, insects are the most biodiverse group of animal life forms, thought to make up between six and ten million species. The nature reserves and parklands around Bristol host a huge diversity of wonderful insect life that is worthy of celebration. Some insects play a fundamental role in helping decomposition by breaking down leaf litter, wood and debris. These insects are efficient at their jobs and totally circular– they’re just naturals at recycling! Here are some to look out for:

Bristol bugs looking for a staycation near you

Hill cuckoo bee: This solitary bee enters nests and lays its own eggs for another bee species to take care of. Such dramatic scenes are commonplace around the Avon Gorge where these bumble bees are found feeding on the pollen from flowering trees, shrubs and weeds.

Duke of Burgundy: The acidic soils at Troopers’ hill offer a home for a wealth of plants and insects. The Duke of Burgundy, a small orange patterned butterfly, is only found in England, with a stronghold in the South around Bristol.

Hornet moth: At first glance, this insect is quite alarming, with its bright orange and black stripes and hornet like body shape. The trick is enough to make predators wary of coming too close to this harmless moth. It can be found at Lamplighter’s Marsh where the scrub, grassland and salt marsh provide a home for wildlife unusual to the Bristol area.

Natural recyclers pushing for a circular economy

Stag Beetle: Fallen branches and dead trees form the perfect home for these insects where they break down the decaying wood. Adults emerge in summertime and are quite a sight to behold, with large jaws resembling antlers, which males use to fight.

Common black garden ant: Don’t worry about finding an ant nest in your compost heap! Ants dig tunnels that bring air into rotting matter, as well as bringing in fungi and minerals into the compost. This can encourage the breakdown of debris and the production of high-quality soils.

The dor beetle: This beetle feeds on manure and is mainly found in cattle pastures searching for dung. The beautiful bluish tinge of the dor beetle makes up for its unappealing food choices. They dig tunnels below dung mounds to lay eggs where larvae then develop underground – which helps to distribute nutrients from manure into the soil.

Why they matter and what you can do to support them

The huge diversity of humble insects that can be found on our doorsteps is remarkable but unfortunately it might not be that way forever. Research has shown that insects are declining rapidly. Insects contribute to sustaining natural ecosystems through processes such as providing food for other animals, pollination and seed dispersal, as well as waste processing. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone on World Environment Day to try making a bug hotel. This simple project will provide a home for garden insects such as bees, wasps and solitary beetles. At a time when hotels for humans remain closed to visitors, let’s make more time for nature and open bug hotels to support the diversity of life, and the ecology of our gardens.

The hornet moth: Picture courtesy of Ben Sale via Flikr, CC BY 2.0