The creation of the Wasp Sanctuary by Karen McCarthey

I have been recording in my small front garden in Longsight for a number of years now and it has proved to be an area of huge diversity. I added a new species of bee to the Lancashire species list in the summer of 2019 – Lasioglossum minutissimum ( 2ft from my front door in and a new species of harvestman(Odiellus spinosus) in 2018 also which is doing rather well in the raspberry patch. Just two of the records I’ve made in recent years, with countless others that have very few records for this part of the country. The City is a truly diverse place but woefully under-recorded which makes it such an exciting place to explore.

Last year I met Robin Wright again. We had known each other for many years to say hello to and he popped round to bring me some plants when we started to discuss the back garden. This space was completely over grown with brambles and was too much for me to handle alone, but once Robin saw it he immediately saw the potential, so we got to work. The Bee Sanctuary loaned us the use of the bramble basher and we started to take down the well established bramble. There is already a huge, mature cherry tree in the space, so we removed the other saplings and aimed to kill off the sycamore that had grown on the north side of the garden with a view to keeping the height and to drill lots of holes in it for the wood nesting species to make a start on utilising. Bramble is a fantastic wildlife resource in many ways so I kept as many of the stems as I could to make trap nests and to create a dead hedge at the back of the garden. I kepy some of the live bramble to let it ramble and secure the dead hedge, thus keep it’s wonderful nectar and pollen resources for our wildlife to access. Slowly but surely the space transformed. Once the bramble stems were removed, we dug out as much bramble and tree root, bearing in mind that the cherry needed as little disturbance as possible, but one particular huge root needed to be removed, which created a nice hole in which we built the pond. The Bee Sanctuary donated the pond liner and underlay, as well as the woodchip for the paths and some planks to contain the beds as the garden has a gentle slope to the North east – East so to stop the soil spilling onto the path in the rain.

We dug out lots of slabs and stone which we kept to create paths in the borders and to surround the pond and also built a wood pile around the base of the sycamore for solitary wasps to nest in. We wanted to give bees, wasps and ants and other pollinators everything they need to complete their life cycle. This includes nectar and pollen for the bees, nesting material and nesting sites as well as prey for the wasps which they use to stock their nests to nourish their offspring. As we created the garden we kept the terms ‘habitat resources’ and ‘reuse – repurpose’ in mind. We used as much of the resources we found clearing the space to put back into use in the garden.

This project has been much needed therapy in what has been a terrible year personally and we’ve had so much fun doing it. We created a wildflower bed in the front garden which has attracted a new species I’ve not recorded here in my garden previously but is common in the area – Megachile willughbiella – one of the leaf cutters. It was a female visiting the sweet peas I sowed for the first time this year. I’ve added more bee hotels at the front and have observed the Hylaeus bees that have been making good use of my chives and hardy geranium over the years nesting for the first time. This year I have just been making observational records to allow the garden to populate but am excited to see what else will arrive. Watch this space!