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To Feed the Birds, You Must First Feed the Bugs
June 17, 2013

I hope all had a Great Fathers Day.

Summer officially begins later this week.

I know I keep saying this,.......

But where does the time go?

The fur kids had their summer hair cut this past week.

Maybe I should say a 'summer cut'.

Ziggy the poodle gets a tighter cut, and Keet (Akita),

Karen is tired of the shedding, so she gets furminated and cut as well.

I suppose I should have a picture, but i don't.

Fireflies (lightening bugs to some) are now popping out in good numbers.

While many parts of the west have no fireflies, most people are familiar with the insect.

Adults are harmless, but the larvae are quite beneficial.

Firefly larvae (glow worms) feed on slugs and other creepy, crawlies.

I do enjoy looking out at nature.

Birds flitting through the yard.

Chipmunks hard at work and play.

Life along the pond, the field, and woodlands.

Except for this one spot.

From the deck, I look over the roof lines facing southeast.

What I see throughout the wooded areas is a line, or a mass of dead trees.

Ash Trees.

Grand trees that were 40 to 50 feet tall (maybe more).

A couple of short years ago, the trees were full and green.

Now, like tens of millions of Ash trees in Michigan, they are gone.

EAB (Emerald Ash Borer) and the adult beetles are now found in 19 states and two Canadian provinces.

First discovered in Michigan a little more than a decade ago, The Asian beetle was believed to have come ashore in shipping crates.

Are you on the list?

Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Ontario and Quebec

Another sad story of an invasive species, and the damages they cause.

I still have other natural beauty to admire.

A gang of Mallard ducks (I call them the guys) that often hang out and wait for feeding time.

Pictured also is a Mourning dove and a sparrow taking a short, late afternoon nap.

Watching the majesty of a Red-tailed hawk as it soars higher and higher.

A daddy robin feeding its young.

Sometimes, beauty is watching a pair of hoverflies getting cozy.

Or as my six year old grandson said, they were dancing.

Natural beauty is also rolling down a small hill with your grandchildren.

Beauty, Natural Beauty, is so many things.

You and I must keep our eyes and ears open.

We must keep our minds open to our surroundings and enjoy all of God's personality and His beauty.

(Cottonwood fuzz)

Beside rolling down a small hill and playing with the kids, I did get a few other things accomplished this past week.

We also made it to another open house.

As I sit here with the windows open, I hear all the sounds of summer.

All but one so far.

The hummingbirds are missing.

Okay, I had them for a week or so in mid/late May, but nothing since.

I've heard from some of you, and you seem to lack hummers as well.

All I can say, is patience my friend.

This year as a whole has been different.

I'm sure the little jewels will appear when more plants are in bloom.

Remember, feeders are usually a supplemental food source, not the real deal.

The past couple of weeks, I wrote on 'Life On the Edge'.

Waters edge that is, healthy life and disappearing life from human causes.

Today, I send you a message on feeding birds.

Actually, it is this.........

'To Feed the Birds, You Must First Feed the Bugs'.


(From the kitchen window.)

There are lots of great reasons to make your yard and garden more welcoming to birds.

I'm sure you can think of several reasons.

Song, movement, relaxing, etc.

But here's one more: pest control.

Most backyard birds eat a combination of seeds, berries and insects.

(Some birds are completely insectivorous.)

However, in late spring and early summer, birds are busy filling the mouths of their hatchlings, and baby birds like nothing better than freshly caught bugs.

That's good news for you and me.

To attract birds you must first feed the insects.

Garden pests are usually at their peak in late spring and early summer.

Our bird friends can save us lots of headaches by combing our gardens for cabbage worms, caterpillars, and other larvae.

Various birds also feed on whiteflies, aphids, earwigs, grasshoppers, cucumber beetles, grubs, borers, and other plant eating insects.

Not to mention mosquitoes.

It's true, birds don't discriminate and eat the beneficial insects as well.

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

Many natives 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 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.

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.

The plant cannot be eaten by the butterfly larvae.


Even a lowly sawfly 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, and chickadees love them.

We feed them seeds which is good, but when they get one of those maggots, they can really make it through the cold winter night.

So, if you cut down 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.

They are beautiful, but it’s a barren wasteland to native insects and thus birds.

You don’t have to cut down the lilacs (hummers and pollinators enjoy them) but they are doing little for the chewing insects and birds.

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

The only things I know of that feed on Hosta are deer and slugs.

But a vast majority of my plantings are native.

Native plants are typically more hardy, can be very attractive, and feeding and attracting the birds is important to me.

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 and 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.

(White Oak)

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.

Oak trees host close to 500 of species of moths and butterflies.

Buttonbush shrub, which has little white flowers, feeds 18 species of butterflies and moths.

Blueberry bushes, which support nearly 300 species of moths and butterflies.

I can live with a few holes in my plants.

I can't imagine living without birds.

Can you?

(Viburnum Trilobum/Highbush Cranberry)

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.

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

They provide food for insects that in turn feed our birds.

If left alone, "Nature" will play out like it is intended to do.

In Balance.

Birds, toads, frogs, 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.

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.

Well, its time to fly for now.

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

For The Birds:


When designing a landscape to attract birds, it's important to provide places where they can hide or take cover from the weather.

During the spring and summer, birds also need nesting sites.

Twiggy shrubs and small trees offer many appealing nesting options.

If your landscape is always tidy and well groomed, you might consider designating one area that can be allowed to develop more naturally.

Remember that more nesting birds means more hungry mouths to feed and more doting parents combing your yard for food.


Birds are attracted to water for drinking and bathing — especially if that water is moving.

If you already have a birdbath, consider adding a bubbler to it.

If you don't already have a birdbath, think about an outdoor fountain instead.

You'll provide the attraction of moving water, while adding an appealing sculptural feature to your garden as well.

Installing a small pond with a solar-powered fountain or a re-circulating waterfall will draw birds from blocks away.

A bird Creek fills the bill as well.


(Boxelder beetles)

Most people, who feed birds, put their feeders away once warm weather arrives.

But even birds that spend most of their time eating insects enjoy the occasional snack.

Keep at least one feeder filled with a quality seed blend that will appeal to chickadees, grosbeaks, cardinals and sparrows.

Also consider non-melting suet cakes that will keep titmice and woodpeckers coming to your yard.

While they're in the area, they'll munch on insect larvae and other delicacies.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

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

God Bless.

"We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about."

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) English Novelist and Clergyman

Our Creator gives each one of us a unique gift or ability.

Often it is up to you to find that gift and hone it.

Always remember where that gift or skill came from.

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men."

Colossians 3:23

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."

2 Timothy 2:15

"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

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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