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Last of Series, Feed the Insects
August 15, 2011

(Moonrise this past Saturday.)

What a joy this past week has been weather wise.

At least in my neck of the woods.

Comfortable temperatures, with low humidity most of the time.

We even had some timely rain a couple of times that blessed us with more than an inch each time.

The lightening and thunder was so close early Saturday morning, that it almost shook us out of bed.

The windows have been open most of the time this week as well.

Put a fan in the window for some good sleeping conditions.

This past week plus was a bit trying and a faith builder for us.

Two Fridays ago, Karen Yolanda and Karen's mom went to one of the malls around here.

Well, mom (87) tried to dent the parking lot with here head and lost.

An ambulance ride, several staples in her head and a pacemaker later, mom in law came home to stay with us on Sunday.

Her pulse was a mere 30 beats per minute and her blood is anemic, resulting in a dizzy spell and the fall backwards.

Care giving became a bit overwhelming, especially for Karen.

For newer readers,

Our daughter Yolanda is brain injured and in a wheel chair from an auto accident several years ago.

Yolanda is 100% dependent on others for her every need and a full time job for both of us.

Now add mom to the mix and you can see how this would frazzle some nerves and make one weary (Karen).

Yolanda pretty much became my job as Karen cared for her mom.

After a few days, Karen got the ball rolling at mom's senior citizen home and had all the care needs lined up.

Mom is back in her own apartment now, but all parties involved seem a bit nervous with some guilt thrown in for good measure.

To finish out the week, we had our one year old granddaughter all day.

I love that little girl, but teething can test a person for sure.

I simply don't have what it takes anymore.

MIL is doing okay and things are getting back to normal around her, but you can see where this becomes a character and faith builder.

This can be a wonderful time of the year for many.

Veggie gardens are in full swing.

Vegetable stands and Farmers Markets are everywhere.

Yes, next to spring, I think this part of August is just wonderful.

This is also the time of year, gardens begin to look worse for wear.

Yes, that haggard look really shows on some veggie gardens and some of your perennials.

Perennials like Monarda are pretty much dome blooming and need to be cut back some.

Now if you are like me, you pinched some back earlier this year and you now have a second wave of Monarda blooming (extending the season).

Shorter and bushier, but full of hummingbird loving flowers.

As long as you continue to deadhead your annuals and certain perennials like Coreopsis and Gaillardia, they will continue to put on a show for you.

Heavy bloomers like these deserve an extra dose of plant food.

Not simply to keep them blooming, but to build up energy to survive cold winters.

Often these plants are too weak to survive a cold winter after a long blooming season that depletes their energy.

"Two Toe" is the only Chickadee that continues to feed from our hands, but even he/she doesn't stop by as often right now.

The Love birds are in a parenting way once again, Peaches is sitting on four eggs and Creamy takes care of her needs.

We didn't want another nest so soon, but simply didn't have the heart to remove the eggs.

I figure sometime in early September they will start hatching.

Do you notice, there seems to be more Yellow Jackets and other wasps this time of year?

And they seem be more aggressive?

You are right on both accounts.

As the nest grows, there are indeed more of these flying creatures around.

As the nest grows, there are also more mouths to
feed, especially in the way of larvae.

More mouths, means more food.

This in turn results in aggressive wasps that aren't hesitant to sting you if you get in the way.

Because Yellow jackets and wasps don't deposit stingers (and die) like bees do, they can and freely do repeat sting.

More food means picnics and cookouts become main targets.

While these insects enjoy nectar and your hummingbird feeders, there is nothing like a good chunk of meat to bring back to the hive.

Things will only get worse (growing pains) until the cold weather slows the down or stops them.

You can attempt to deter the little picnic marauders by strategically placing a can of tuna or ripe meat elsewhere to attract them.

Wasps hunt more by smell, and little is more pleasing than a piece of ripe meat or fish.

By doing this, you may actually witness Yellow Jackets so full and weighted down, that they lose the ability to fly for a time.

In the mean time, keep the watermelon and extras covered and lids on your favorite beverages.

This is the last of a series on insects for now, except for butterflies here and there.

I hope you enjoyed and possibly learned a bit on the world of insects and maybe come away with a different outlook towards them

Yes, I too could live without mosquitoes, fleas and a few others in the insect world, but you now see they play a bigger roll than simply you and me.

To attract birds you must first feed the insects:

After a few weeks of me writing on the importance of insects, I'm sure you are saying

"Enough Already."

Not quite my friends..........

I wrote on this topic a couple of years ago, yet it bears repeating from time to time.

Just like people, birds and other animals depend on insects to provide different foods at different times of the year.

Animals are opportunistic when it comes to food and will eat a wider variety of food if it is available.

Many native plants provide food for insects and birds.

So, when young trees or wildflowers sprout in an inconvenient place, too close to the back door, or in front of a window or near a sidewalk, the temptation is to remove it right now.

You may consider transplanting it or waiting till the end of the growing season to remove it.


A little black cherry tree is a wonderful host for Tiger swallowtails.

The larvae will feed birds and keep your butterfly population going strong.

Allow the tree to grow and the fruits will feed multiple species of birds and small mammals.

By waiting, you enjoy the best of "Nature" and the natural world.

Although gardeners might believe that when they plant a butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) native to China, they are helping butterflies.

Butterfly bushes are merely attracting the adults who sip the nectar (which plays an important role).

Hummingbirds enjoy them as well.

However, the plant cannot be eaten by the butterfly larvae.

Even a lowly fly maggot, which lives inside the hard round galls often seen on the stems of goldenrod, has an important place in the ecosystem.

Fly maggots are really high in proteins and fats.

Chickadees and woodpeckers love them.

We feed them seeds which is good, but when they get a Goldenrod fly gall maggot, they can really make it through the cold winter night.

If you cut down all the goldenrod, the wild
black cherry, the milkweed and other natives, you eliminate the larvae and other insects, and the birds go hungry.

Yes, to attract birds, you must feed the insects first.

The typical garden might hold weeping cherries, lilacs and crape myrtles, and non native grasses.

They are beautiful, but itís a barren wasteland to native insects and thus for birds.

You donít have to cut down the lilacs (hummers and pollinators enjoy them) but they are doing little for the insects and birds.

I've mentioned before, I have lilacs, peonies, bearded iris etc. but these are for my personal enjoyment and have special meaning (past down for generations).

But a vast majority of my plantings are native for various reasons and feeding the birds is an important reason for me.

Also, as I grow and learn, I am understanding and appreciating more, about our native insect populations.

There are lists of plants for what attracts what, which was then eaten by what, and so on.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is what I believe to be the premier organization and web site to offer names of natives.

Your state or province "Department of Natural Resources" or what ever name they go by will offer you suggestions as well.

Almost all North American birds other than seabirds ( 96 %) feed their young with insects, which contain more protein than beef.

So the message is this:

You as gardeners and nature lovers could slow the rate of extinction and possibly prevent it, by planting natives in your yards.

In the northeast, a patch of violets will feed fritillary caterpillars.

A patch of phlox could support eight species of butterflies.

Pollinators and food for other wildlife.

The Buttonbush shrub, which has little white flowers, feeds 18 species of butterflies

Blueberry bushes, which support 288 species of moths and butterflies.

While it is true that many adult birds enjoy fruits and seeds, insects make up a vast majority of the diet for baby birds that require the high protein to grow fast and strong.

Even the diet of our beloved hummingbirds is a full one third high protein made up of insects like gnats,
aphids and even mosquitoes.

(They don't live on nectar alone.)

Spicebush, viburnums, other native trees, shrubs and flowers offer more than fruits and seeds.

They provide food for insects that in turn feed other insects and our birds and small animals.

If left alone, "Nature" will play out like it was created to do.

Birds, toads, frogs, small mammals and beneficial insects etc. will keep other insects in check.

When we flood the landscapes with toxins, "Nature" gets out of balance and then you have to worry about insect plagues.

Try this example for comparison.

Rabbits are prolific reproducers for a reason.

They help feed a host of predatory birds and animals.

When the fox, coyote, bobcat, raccoons (raid the nests), etc., and birds of prey are killed off, the rabbit is free to roam and make other rabbits in great numbers.

"Nature's" check and balance is off whack.

The rabbit now becomes a pest as many of you already know.

The world of insects is much the same way.

A vast majority of insect species are beneficial insects.

Yet, because the bad bugs have to feed so many other species of insects and birds, they reproduce at a greater rate.

When you and I use pesticides to excess, will not only kill off the bad, we kill off the good too (including pollinators).

Not to mention, the super bugs that become immune to our toxins and are now free to do their thing.

Here is another part of that you may not think of.

(Lady Beetle Larvae.)

If there is no prey (insects), the predators will go elsewhere to look for food.

This is why it is often a waste of money to buy Praying Mantis egg casings and Lady Beetles.

They wont stick around if the grocery store is empty.

Not to mention the lack off birds for one reason or another.

When "Gardening For Wildlife" always keep nature first and nature will reward you.

With any habitat, offer fresh water for drinking and bathing.

Mud puddles are handy for butterflies and certain birds.

Get creative, but allow nature to be your guide.

Remember this however, because a plant says it is native, it may not be native to your region and that does make a difference.

Yes, that means doing some research and homework.

Well, its time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your thought for the week.

God Bless.

"Fear will always knock on your door. Just don't invite it in for dinner. and for heaven's sake, don't offer it a bed for the night."

Max Lacado

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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