How to help wildlife during a summer heatwave

Wildlife can struggle from a lack of access to water or limited food sources during a summer heatwave, but you can help the visitors to your garden. Here is our guide on how to help different species of wildlife in your garden during a heatwave.

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Here is our guide on how to help different species of wildlife in your garden during a heatwave.

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are vulnerable mammals during the summer, with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) noting the influx of calls to report dehydrated hedgehogs. Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS, said: “With the very hot dry weather hedgehogs and other wildlife are struggling to find natural sources of water, and the ground is so dry and hard that their natural food is hard to come by too.” Make sure to leave small bowls of water out, and meaty pet foods can be used in emergencies.

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Drinking hedgehog. Michael Partridge. 

Hedgehogs don’t sunbathe!

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has issued a plea for people to keep an eye out for hedgehogs in need of help.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal so should not normally be out in the daylight.  There are some exceptions to that rule, for example if a nest has been disturbed and the hedgehog is relocating, or if a busy mum is taking a break from the nest.  However, these hedgehogs would be moving quickly ‘with purpose’. 

If you find a hedgehog in need of help the Society suggest you use gardening gloves or an old towel to collect the animal, placing it inside a high sided cardboard or plastic box with the towel or an old Tshirt in the bottom for it to hide under. Bring the box indoors away from flies.  If the hedgehog isn’t bleeding, offering a warm wrapped hot water bottle is good first aid, but do make sure there is room for it to get off if it gets too warm and ensure the bottle is not allowed to go cold.  Offer some meaty cat or dog food and water but don’t force feed it.  

Once you’ve done that, call a local hedgehog rescue centre if you know of one, or BHPS on 01584 890 801 for further advice and local contacts.

Birds

Water baths are great for wild birds, as they can cool down in the water and drink it. Plus, they can provide much-needed water for other small animals with access. Bird feeders are also useful additions to your garden or, alternatively, you can scatter a few seeds for them to eat.

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Male common chaffinch enjoying a birdbath. Getty.

Bees

In warm weather, bees often become exhausted and may lay on the ground to recover. You can help them by providing a water and sugar solution to give them a boost of energy. This will aid them in regaining enough energy to fly back to their hive.

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Honeybee on a flower. Getty.

Butterflies

Unlike other animals and insects, butterflies thrive in summer heat. However, you can still help the butterflies in your garden by planting flowers which produce a lot of nectar. These include, Buddleja, Verbena, Common Knapweed, and others. Given the heat, why not take part in the Big Butterfly Count taking place this summer?

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Meadow Brown butterfly sat on a <em>Buddleja davadii</em>, nicknamed the ‘butterfly bush’. Getty.

Aquatics

If you have a fish pond in your garden, make sure to keep the water clean and ensure the water isn’t dense with weeds. Providing some shade over the pond can also help to cool the water down, but maintain as much light as possible to encourage water plants to grow.

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Fish pond at Urchfont, Wiltshire. Getty.