When I went into a shed I didn’t regularly use last week, I was surprised at how many insects, birds, and animals I could see there. I wondered what else was living there that I couldn’t see.
Sheds can be home to butterflies, bees, wasps, woodlouse, birds, spiders, and small rodents such as bats or mice.
Please read on if you want to find out what might be living in your shed.
Although many people think of wildlife in their sheds as pests (which they can be), you may see many beautiful animals in, around, or under your shed.
How much wildlife you find in your shed will depend on how old it is and what material it is made from. Wood is probably the best outdoor material, but the type of wood preservative used can also impact what nature you may find.
Many wood preservatives are poisonous to invertebrates, and although they will protect your shed from beetles, they are lethal to other insects, such as butterflies.
Some sheds may be made of concrete, and although not as appealing to wildlife, they can still make a good home for the right animal.
Although you may not think the colder winter months would allow you to see butterflies, sheds are a great place to spot them. Butterflies hibernating through winter will often open and close their wings, and you may hear them rustle as they do.
Butterflies that sleep throughout winter find sheds ideal as their folded wings are camouflaged until the warmer months when they start to fly around. Butterflies may be seen inside sheds trying to get out through the windows during spring.
Mice can often be found in sheds in winter once the temperatures start dropping. A tell-tale sign of mice in your shed is that you will begin to notice minor nibble marks on papers and cardboard. They use these materials to help build their nest. If food is in the shed, you may find minor tooth marks where the mice have been gnawing away.
Although many people do not like mice, they are of no genuine concern. Care should be taken not to handle mice or their feces, but they don’t cause much damage and don’t particularly smell.
Bats can sometimes be found in sheds as the male pipistrelle likes to live alone. Bats can fit through small gaps in sheds to get where they want to sleep throughout the day.
Bats will conserve their energy and enter a state of torpor. Although they may appear dead and are cold, they may be in torpor. Bats are relatively harmless, although they should not be handled.
One of the first things I know I will see in a shed is a collection of spiderwebs. Not because I don’t clean it, but lots of spiders can live in a hut.
Spiders are generally nocturnal, so you may not see them during the day unless you disturb them while moving boxes, tools, or containers. Visiting your shed at night is an entirely different experience, and you may be surprised at how many spiders you can see in your shed.
With over 20 species of spiders supported in most gardens, you will surely see many spiders in your shed.
You may also spot the molted skins of spiders in your shed. These look like spider skeletons, although you may only be able to spot the legs as the body will have dissolved.
Birds can get into sheds through open doors or broken windows. If you leave the door open sometimes in spring, you may soon find a nest of birds in your shed.
Small birds may also get through the knots falling out of the wooden panels. These also allow birds to get through the external panels and the internal wood; some birds love nesting in this area.
If you find birds have got in through an open door and nested in your shed, try to leave the door empty as much as possible. Just propping the door open will allow them to get in and out without being injured.
What size the shed is can affect which species your shed may attract. Robins often make their nests in sheds, and you may find that they use different materials from inside your shed to make their nests. Swallows can also be found in larger sheds where they construct their nests from mud.
Bees and Wasps
The small knotholes that allow some birds to nest in your shed let bees and wasps in. Sheds are an excellent place for wasps to build their networks.
Wasp nests and sheds are both made from wood. Wasps will cause the wood into a pulp by chewing it and using their saliva. The wasp’s jaws spread the pulp to make the nest larger.
Apart from the queens who survive, wasps die during the winter. The queens will stay in the nest until the following year.
Not all bees live in hives or large nests. Solitary bees often make their tiny nests. These nests can stay undetected for some time. The female ensures she has enough nectar and pollen to feed her young.
The larvae are fed the nectar once they emerge from their eggs. The larvae are born just before the female dies. The larvae may stay in their nest for up to a year before emerging as adult bees. These solitary bees are essential as pollinators for many garden plants.
Woodworms can be detrimental to your shed if it is made of wood. Woodworm is the larva of the furniture beetle and can cause vast amounts of damage.
Woodworms bore through wood, leaving tunnels throughout, weakening the wood.
You may notice small holes where the beetles have emerged on the wood surface. Unfortunately, you often don’t know about woodworm until it is too late that you have it. The holes do not appear until the beetles come out as adults.
If your shed is damp, then this is inviting to woodworm. As the wet weakens the shed, the larvae can burrow before emerging as adult beetles.
Damp can cause lots of damage to sheds, and a woodlouse is a sure sign of dampness in your shed.
Woodlouse can be found in damp areas, feeding on debris and rotten wood. Woodlouse is a crustacean and does not have waterproof skin.
Although harmless, woodlice provide food for other animals that feed on them, including toads.
To stop woodlice in your shed, ensure it is as damp-proof as possible and, if possible, raised off the ground.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.