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Beneficial Insects
July 22, 2019

A break in the heat.

Dew points close to 80 degrees, Air temps in the 90's (F.).

Made for some beyond oppressive days, here in SW. Michigan. 

I know, many of you are calling me a sissy right now.

Well, if the shoe fits, I'm wearing it.

A few Monarchs continue to visit our yard.

This past Saturday I watched a Black Swallowtail butterfly, deposit some eggs on some overgrown dill I was about to pull up.

Now I must wait to see if I get little caterpillars.

Of course no camera at that time.

One of the few non-native plants I grow is 'Crocosmia'.

I got this from my mom, for the hummingbirds.

As you can see, it is stunning in bloom and the hummers are all over it.

(A juvenile oriole feeding on grape jelly.)

Below you will see Snickers with a fresh haircut.

Also pictured is a Bald Cardinal (Mini Vulture look), some what common with Blue jays, and various blackbirds as well.

The common suggestion for years is, lice/mites so the birds drop head feathers.

Ornithologists now believe it is more of a radical, or serious molting of head feathers.

Through years of mist netting, and catching said birds, there were no signs of lice/mites.

When asked, you can now say it is believed to be a 'radical head molt'.

Why some do and others don't, there is no answer for that.

Karen and I will be gone for a long weekend in Petoskey, MI. (this coming weekend).

If there is a newsletter next week, it wont be on Monday.

We don't get away too often without Yolanda (respite at Hope Network), so we plan on enjoying ourselves.

Your prayers are welcome, please.

(Evening Sky.)

You know of Lady Beetles and Mantids and the work they do for gardeners.

They are some of the good guys.

You understand the important rolls of pollinators, bees, butterflies, hoverflies and others.

Not to mention parasitic wasps and such.

The past  couple of weeks I wrote
on certain beneficial insects to give you an idea that not all bugs are bad.

You read about Dragonflies, and Lacewings.

Hopefully you learned something and understand a bit more about these good guys.

In the past there have been letters on wasps, bees, hoverflies, and others.

I've written on on "To Feed the Birds, You Must First Feed the Bugs."

I could write on a specific beneficial insect for the rest of the summer and not cover them all.

Research shows that 93% of all insect species are beneficial.

Okay, then why do I have so many stinking aphids and other pests in my gardens you may ask?

Why do you feel over run?

Good questions and I hope to give some answers in today's letter.


Wildlife includes any non-plant organisms, such as insects, birds, fish, and animals.

The impact of your landscapes development upon wildlife differs from its impact upon soils, plants and water, because wildlife is mobile.

Moving from plant to plant.

Capable of moving on and off site.

In addition, landscape development does not import wildlife to a site, as it does plants.

Your activities often create an altered landscape that may or may not provide the necessary habit to support wildlife, or the wildlife you may want to attract.

Food, protection, water, a place to lay eggs or give birth, and raise a family.

That includes insects as well.

This is a 'Wildlife Habitat'.

In nature, a wildlife community grows slowly, forming an intricate and balanced web.

Like plants, wildlife is responsive to the landscape's physical condition --- its land-form, vegetation and water bodies.

Wildlife species fill specific niches and perform certain functions.

Functions that include pollination, distributing seeds, eating plant material, and controlling the population size of organisms lower on the food chain.

Plant and animal life designed for that specific region and habitat.

Predator and prey.

Toads and frogs.

Birds like this Purple martin eat copious amounts of insects, good and bad.

Not to mention bats and beneficial insects.

The food chain is an important component in nature's web of associations.

It describes the feeding relationships between species.

Who eats what, and is then eaten by whom.

When this food chain is off balance, bad things can happen and in a hurry.

(Native plants, Milkweed, Liatris, Phlox.)

Some insects like Aphids over winter pregnant.

That is correct, they don't lay eggs the first time around, they give birth and this gives the colony a running start.

However, in a balanced ecosystem, only enough survive to do it all over again the following year.

Mess with nature (pesticides, to many exotic plants, wrong habitats) and infestations are the result.

Each predator in the food chain must consume much prey in order to survive, so there are many more bad insects because they have to feed the good guys and continue to survive.

As a result, a native ecosystem supports more herbivores than omnivores and more omnivores than carnivores.

When the top of the food chain is missing, the bottom of the chain may burgeon.

With this in mind, the plants you choose can encourage or discourage the presence of wildlife (including pests).

Oaks and pines are the most valuable woody plants for wildlife.

Followed by wild cherry, blackberry and dogwood.

Lush green lawns offer little for wildlife except a few worms for robins and forage for rabbits, geese and maybe a few deer.

(Ground Beetles.)

Here is an eye opening example or two.

Now pay attention.

Research shows that some of our wildlife can't survive without native plants.

Willows (Salix sp.) and cherry/plum (Prunus sp.) each host around 450 different moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera sp.)

While oaks (Quercus sp.) host an astounding 517 species of moth and butterflies.

Moth and butterfly larvae attract birds that also eat other insects (good and bad).

Larvae become butterflies and moths that pollinate and fill our gardens with joy and beauty.

Some Butterflies like Monarchs (Milkweed), and Blue Karner, (Wild Lupine),rely on specific hosts to survive. 

Aphids, whiteflies, mites, thrips, etc. are generalists.

They feed on just about anything and may come with your exotic plants.

Exotics wont attract the good guys near as often.

If the habitat isn't conducive for other native wildlife (prey insects, birds, lizards and toads), the pest insects are going to take over.

Even if bad insects account for 7% of the insect species, they are more numerous (reproduce), because they are natural food for so many predators.

Much like rabbits are prey for so many different predators.

Disrupt that equation with pesticides, lack of native habitat, nesting sights, protection etc. and the bad guys go wild.

When Gardening or landscaping, you must consider many factors to attract and keep wildlife.

(Assassin Bugs.)

Predator insects go where the food is.

If you lack prey, predators move elsewhere which can be a good thing.

When prey is found, predators aren't far behind.

We often get infestations because of insecticides that kill off bad and the good.

A few aphids may survive, while the lady beetle or hoverfly larvae are killed off.

You may have won the battle, but are you loosing the war?

Insects often become immune to certain insecticides and more powerful chemicals are used.

More beneficial insects are killed, as are birds and toads from eating dead and sprayed insects, and on up the chain it goes.

When we plant too many exotics, birds and certain insects stay away, as there is nothing to draw them to your yard.

Another reason that pest insects may flourish.

God designed nature to work on a delicate designed balance.

Mess with nature and it messes back.

Nature is very forgiving when we give it the chance.

(Monarchs are good pollinators, and other facts.)

In conclusion,

Landscape development improves habitat for some species, degrades and eliminates habitat for others, and creates appropriate habitat for exotic and domesticated species.

As a result, adapted wildlife thrives and reproduces, potentially overrunning your landscape, damaging vegetation, interfering with natural and human functions.

Managing these species requires some planning and time.

If not, outside intervention may be needed to keep some populations in check and that can cost big money.

Try to ignore a hole or two in a leaf, because you know that many insects do more good than harm.

Feed the bugs, to feed the birds..

Remember, 93% of insect species wear the white hats.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for this week.

God Bless.

"Take time to laugh - it is the music of the soul".

From an old English prayer.

There isn't much to add to this thought.

Smile, Laugh, and Love.

Be sure to share these God given gifts with others.

God's Word.

 "For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast."

Proverbs 15:15

"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.

A Blessed week to you .

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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