The Hedgehog:Organic Pest Control
A hedgehog, otherwise known as a hedge-pig is a spiny mammal found through parts of Africa, Asia and Europe. Hedgehogs are not native to North America or Australia.
Hedgehogs have remained the same for the at least the past ten million years. They were one of the first mammals and are adapted to an insectivorous, nocturnal lifestyle. They are called hedgehogs because they live in hedgerows and have a snout similar to that of a pig.
Hedgehogs primarily come out at night, and have varying levels of daytime activity depending on the particular species. The hedgehog sleeps during the day either in a hole in the ground or under grass, a rock or a bush. Many species of hedgehogs shelter in underground dens which they dig themselves. Hibernation can occur in all hedgehogs but whether it occurs or not depends on three factors: availability of food, species of hedgehog and weather, temperature in particular.
Hedgehogs that live in the wild are frequently welcome in gardens as a natural form of pest control.
One hedgehog can keep an average garden pest-free while it eats up to 200 grams of insects and bugs per night. Commonly, people try to lure hedgehogs into their gardens with treats. To encourage hedgehogs into your garden, is best to leave out only a small treat (tinned dog food for example) which means they are still hungry for eating the pests in your garden. Keeping your garden free of pests is thirsty work so be sure to leave plenty of water out for hedgehogs as well.
The hedgehog is considered to be a helpful, busy and cute (but not so cuddly) helper in the garden. This is because what it considers gourmet food are what we consider garden pests. For example, the hedgehog likes to eat snails, beetles, slugs, insects and caterpillars as well as other garden pests.
Even though the hedgehog is very popular, man is it’s main predator, by accident rather than on purpose of course. Hedgehogs are often killed by cars on the roads and the use of pesticides in the garden means that they are susceptible to poisoning while they forage there. Because of it’s sharp spikes, man is the hedgehog’s only (inadvertent) predator and it is clear that the hedgehog has begun to use more useful flight tactics to avoid becoming roadkill i.e. many hedgehogs have learned to run away from the path of an oncoming car rather than curling into a ball in the middle of the road.
A hedgehog’s spikes are made of keratin and are extremely sharp. A female hedgehog can have one or two litters in the summer months with up to seven young in each litter. Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal and it is widely believed that only sick or hungry hedgehogs appear during the day. Late summer and Autumn is a busy time for the hedgehog as it is then time to eat abundantly to produce sufficient fat deposits to survive their hibernation in winter.
If the use of chemical pesticides is kept to a minimum in the garden, the hedgehog and the gardener can enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship i.e. the hedgehog removes garden pests by eating them. Perhaps the gardener can also supply a small undisturbed pile of grass clippings, sticks and leaves where the hedgehog can bed down during the day before going on-duty as garden-pest exterminator at night. Surely, those who are supplied with food and board in a garden in this way will think they are in hedgehog heaven!
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