The cold season is not a problem for most native animals – they have survival strategies. However, a little human help can’t hurt. This is how you give winter help for animal “stayers”.
When it’s cold and uncomfortable outside, it’s not just us humans who want to hide under the covers. For many animals, too, it means: Off to winter quarters! Garden dwellers such as hedgehogs, dormouse and marmots lay down to rest and hibernate during the cold season. Garden owners who want to make the budding late risers fit for the frosty season can, among other things, create winter quarters. For example, a heap of dead wood, brushwood and leaves in a quiet corner of the garden helps the hedgehog. There he makes himself comfortable for the next four to five months. In addition, hungry hedgehogs enjoy cat food mixed with oatmeal or wheat bran in autumn.
What many do not know: bats also hibernate. However, not all species are dormant all winter – some night hunters even change roosts or occasionally plaster insects during the cold season. The animals find suitable shelter, for example, in the smallest gaps in roofs and attics, but also in old, thick trees with natural tree hollows. The experts from the Nature Conservation Association advise garden and house owners: “If you have a pile of firewood in front of your house, you should watch out for overwintering bats, they could be here.”
Disorder creates quarters
Most of all, garden owners can allow a little mess. This means: dead branches remain, shrubs that have faded are only cut back in spring. Because endangered wild bees overwinter in the hollow plant stalks and the old wood. In autumn, ladybugs look for a sheltered spot under the leaves and moss. Snuggled close together, they spend the winter there in groups of up to 100 animals. By the way: the most important means of survival are carried by the supposed lucky charms in their own bodies. They enrich their body fluids with glycerine as a natural antifreeze. This ensures that they do not burst in the cold.
What other gardeners can do: A flower pot lined with wood wool, turned upside down and almost completely buried, can serve as a place for a bumblebee queen to hibernate. Ear pikers are happy about a pot filled with straw that is hung on the fence. There are so-called insect hotels for beneficial insects such as lacewings. These nesting aids, which are practical in spring and summer, should also remain outside in the cold season, they then serve as winter quarters. Important: The insect hotel should face south and rainwater must be able to run off.
And what should actually be clear: leaf blowers or vacuum cleaners have no place in the natural, animal-friendly garden. They endanger crawlers and the like who have already found shelter in the pile of leaves.
This is how domestic animal species overwinter
|Animal species||Overwintering tactics||Hibernation?|
|Ladybug||In groups of up to 100 animals, ladybirds spend the winter snuggled together under stones, leaves and moss.||Yes|
|Hedgehog||In autumn, hedgehogs eat large pads of fat and retire curled up in a burrow stuffed with leaves and grass.||Yes|
|Bees||Wild bees overwinter in hollow plant stems and old wood.||Yes|
|Frogs||Frogs and toads bury themselves in the mud or look for a hole in the ground.||Yes|
|Squirrel||Collected and buried a supply in the fall. They hibernate in the Kobel and occasionally eat from their supplies.||No|
|Dormouse||Dig into leaves or loose soil in smaller groups. Some also use tree hollows or nest boxes.||Yes|
|Bats||Even though bats generally hibernate, they wake up occasionally to change their position or to empty their bowels and bladder. But they don’t eat.||The most|
|Bumblebees||Look for holes in the ground in partial shade, direct sunlight would wake bumblebees too early.||Yes|
|Ear Pince||Lie down in a hanging shelter to rest. Like to overwinter in old flower pots.||Yes|
|Moles||In addition to the nesting chamber, moles create a storage chamber in which they collect prey in autumn.||No|
|Butterflies||Stay in sheltered places like tree hollows or a niche in the woodshed. Many also die, while caterpillars and pupae survive.||Yes|
|Wasps||Most of them die. Only the wasp queen survives.||Yes|
Set up feeding stations
Of course, not all animals fall into a deep sleep in the long winter months. Some animal species only go to rest temporarily and have to find enough food to make ends meet, even when it’s very cold. In addition to birds, squirrels in particular have a hard time looking for food on cold winter days when the ground is frozen. The cute squirrels usually fill their “storage chambers” (earth hollows) in autumn – up to 10,000 pine cones, beechnuts, walnuts and hazelnuts are usually stored in them. But if the ground is rock hard, the whole autumn collecting fever is of no use. Animal lovers can help by offering feeding places for the rodents. For example, special feed silos from specialist retailers that do not have to be refilled every day are suitable.
For their winter rest, the animals are also dependent on a warm burrow. To do this, they build a so-called Kobel, a nest made from twigs and leaves. Artificial nesting aids made of wood are also popular with the rodents. The following applies here: It has to be spacious and with a large entrance hole.