Insects Love Trees – National Insect Week

It’s National Insect Week this week. Far from being scary or annoying, insects do a vital and amazing job – yes even that fly buzzing around inside the bedroom when you’re trying to sleep. 

By Alastair Rae from London, United Kingdom (Southern White Admiral) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Alastair Rae from London, United Kingdom (Southern White Admiral) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

We asked the Isle of Wight’s very own Virtual Ranger and Manager of Gift To Nature Matt Chatfield to tell us about why knowing that insects love trees is so important and what you might discover when you’re tree climbing with Goodleaf.

Happy National Insect Week y’all!

Insects Love Trees

We tend to think of insects buzzing around flowers, or maybe creeping on the ground. But what we don’t always notice is the huge numbers of insects up in the trees – because we’re not usually up there to see them.

So here’s something to think about while you’re up in the canopy, admiring the view. Take a look at the other little creatures with you. They might be more important than they seem.

In 1960 a scientist called Richard Southwood looked at the numbers of insect species supported by various trees. He went on to become Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and was one of the twentieth century’s most eminent and influential zoologists and ecologists. Southwood’s work on the relationships between insects and trees is still used now, and showed some interesting results – some trees support many hundreds of different sorts of insects, whereas others have very few.  

His findings were really important at the time, because they helped us to understand the importance of planting the right plants in the right place. It might seem like common sense to us today, but Southwood showed that in Britain, the best trees for insects were the native willows, birch, and oak trees just like the Goodleaf oak. By contrast, trees that originated in foreign countries such as larch, spruce and fir had far fewer types of insect on them.

So it follows that if we want better, richer ecosystems supporting our local insects, we’d be better off planting native trees. Foresters and ecologists today use this kind of information to plan their planting and make sure that new trees and woodland will be good for insects, which means good for everyone, including us.


By Matt Chatfield

The Virtual Ranger