There seem to be a growing number of ‘gardeners’ who are happy to leave ‘nature’ to take its course in their gardens. They are happy, or at least prepared, to put up with the damage wrought by slugs and snails, want dandelions to be regarded as desirable wild flowers and eschew the use of any and all chemicals. That’s fine, I have no problem with people doing what they please on their patch of land if it doesn’t impact me negatively to a significant degree. But, and I don’t aim to cause offence, it is not especially difficult to buy a piece of land and do nothing to it. It is not gardening. It is more challenging to buy a piece of land and manage it for the benefit of wildlife but it seems to me that there is a distinction between natural wildness, even managed natural wildness, and gardens. Clearly the distinction is very indistinct and everyone would draw the dividing line a little differently.
Over time nature can produce a generally stable equilibrium between a wide range of organisms but I doubt there is anywhere left on the planet where that equilibrium hasn’t been disrupted by our own overly successful species. There is no such equilibrium in my garden, where I will insist on growing plants that have had their natural pest and disease resistance bred out of them, in conditions conducive to the flourishing of heterotrophs that see only an abundant food supply. I feel obliged to intervene in an attempt at restoring a healthy balance.
Vine weevils are (according to Wikipedia) native to Europe but common in North America. They are a particularly damaging pest of plants grown in containers. I was always given to understand that this was because the larvae are vulnerable to drying out and that since potting composts are generally kept evenly moist, being difficult to wet if allowed to dry out, they are a great habitat for them.
While most of the damage we get is of plants growing in moist soilless compost in pots, we also find they can eat into the stems of succulents growing in dry compost, soil based or not.
For the last couple of months I have been venturing out with a torch several nights a week, to exercise a measure of control over our seemingly limitless slug population. It seems to work, generally when I have removed slugs from a plant in the evening, little or no further damage seems to have occurred by morning. Since early to mid June I have been spotting a number of vine weevil adults on certain plants. They may have been there earlier but seemed to be very soft shelled, so probably not. Some have been on plants in pots but the majority on one Aster growing in the ground and on primroses. None of the plants seem to be suffering seriously but knowing that each adult weevil could go on to lay 800-1000 eggs, each one beneath my boot feels like a significant event.
I was surprised to find so many on the Aster. It is well away from anything growing in pots, though there may have been container grown plants planted nearby. I lifted and potted a struggling Epimedium beside it some weeks back which may have been hosting larvae. The adults weevils have nibbled at the edges of the Aster leaves but not to the point of being conspicuous, though I have collected as many as seven in one night, so there must have been a goodly number of grubs on the roots of the Aster or something else nearby.
I have also found them in significant numbers (dammit, one is significant!) under the rims of pots and standing trays. Some plastic pots have rims that roll down, creating a perfect place for weevils to hide. Spot a notch on a fuchsia leaf and it is worth searching around for any suitable daytime hiding places, it or they will be there somewhere.