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But first Feed The Bugs
June 04, 2018

Is it June already?

Spring did pass us by this year (well, a week or two).

At least June is ushered in with some much needed relief.

Cooler temperatures and low humidity.

Last week was not funny at all.

Still, the heat does make things grow, and grow they are.

Still, many plants and blooms are still a good week or two behind a normal season (so are fledglings).

We were also blessed with some well timed rain (Thank You Alberto).

I am finally seeing fledged birds here and there (not in my yard), and also a baby bunny or two on my walks.

The Tree Swallows have a family in one of the gourd houses.

They are a joy to watch, and even keep the House sparrows from the gourds as well.

I understand for Blue-birders, it is a good thing to have a partner house close by.

One for Bluebirds and one to hopefully attract Tree Swallows.

Pictured are mom and dad Swallow.

First of the month also means it is time to clean and sanitize feeders.

I pick the first of month, because it is easy to remember.

Don't forget water sources too.

Do not allow stagnant water to stand, not just for the birds, but this is a mosquito breeding haven.

This week I touch on a different subject, yet one I feel is Paramount for our backyard habitats and songbirds.

'If you want birds, you must first feed the bugs'.


Many of us are proud of our gardens.

You may be a backyard gardener, hobby farmer, or a professional gardener.

You may be in charge of corporate properties, or landscaping for others.

You may even have a title like 'Michigan Certified Nurseryman' or 'Certified Green Industry Professional'.

Could be you are a 'Naturalist', 'Horticulturist' or some other title.

Sometimes the title comes in handy, I've known many gardeners without a title that can put you and me to shame, with all of their knowledge and experience.

And I am a 'Michigan Certified Nurseryman' (retired), and a 'Certified Naturalist'.

I don't claim to know it all.

I digress.

(Non Native Daisies.)

Your landscapes are a part of your personality, (Or should be).

They help sustain you as you look over our living handiwork.

Now it’s time to think of our gardens and landscapes as having another role .........

As places to sustain songbirds and other wild creatures.

As the human population grows, there’s less and less room for wildlife.

Our gardens and landscapes now are vitally important to preserving and sustaining nature’s diversity–birds, bees, butterflies and others.

The key is native plants.

(Not Again?)

Here me out...........

hese are plants adapted to local conditions and generally require less maintenance and fewer resources, such as water and fertilizers, than non-natives.

For the last decade plus, there has been a strong trend toward the use of native plants in planning landscapes, both large and small.

And now people are discovering another reason to plant natives .........

Insects ....................

Echinacia (coneflower), is a wonderful native that attracts different insects.

From leaf eaters, to many kinds of pollinators.

Don't get me wrong...

Like you, I too enjoy a few non native shrubs and perennials.

Yes, I enjoy some non native like 'Crocosmia', 'Day lilies', 'Bulb lilies', 'German iris' , 'Siberian iris', and a few others.

I have a 'Double White, French Lilac, and a Buddleia (butterfly bush).

Some I have because I enjoy and they do offer nectar for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

Others like the lilac bush and some iris are 'Family Heirlooms' and follow me around.

I also enjoy several annuals in my gardens, and most annuals are non native plants.

However ................

Native plants attract native, leaf-eating insects.

Adults bugs and every other stage in a bugs life.

From egg, to nymph or instars, to adults that feed on other bugs and nectar.

To feed the birds, you must first feed the Bugs.

Sounds crazy?

Listen up.

If you are like me, the most welcome visitors to our landscapes are the birds.

The locals that stay all year and the birds that pass through or migrate or raise their young here.

But most landscapes, even those with many bird feeders, offer little to really attract birds, let alone sustain them.

Properties filled with fancy hybrids and exotic plants are putting our songbirds on a starvation diet.

It’s like throwing a party without providing any munchies for your guests.

Here’s why:

Most non-natives are imports from Europe, Asia, Africa and so on.

Some hybrids of the plants that grew here naturally are developed for certain features like deterring insects.

Many of us are still choosing these for our properties.

Why is this a problem?

Virtually all living things rely on plants, either directly or indirectly, for food.

Research shows the loss of wildlife, like birds that rely on wildlife. like insects.

The destruction and loss of natural habitat does indeed affect wildlife.

To the point that many species of birds, lizards, and plants are now threatened and even on the endangered lists.

Adults Insects Only:

We like to attract butterflies.

You may have a couple of butterfly bushes just for this reason.

But what about host plants?

They need native plants.

Do you go into panic mode when you see a leaf eating caterpillar or other young insect?

Caterpillars eat plant leaves and many adult insects drink flower nectar and gather pollen.

These insects (in all stages), are a major source of food for birds and other wildlife.

In fact, 96 percent of our native birds raise their young by feeding them with high-protein insects and spiders.

This is a picture of me feeding the chickadees ( a few years ago).

Peanut pieces are packed with protein.

Insects are loaded with it.

These little birds grew up because of insects.

A Pair of chickadees may feed over 5,000 insects to a single brood in then teach them to forage for bugs as well.

Insects before seed.

To feed the birds, you must first feed the bugs.

Most of our native insects need native plants to survive.

They simply don’t recognize non-natives as food.

Nature provided for them to feed on only a few kinds of plants, and birds know where to find them.

So in order to have insects for our birds, we need to offer the plants insects recognize, and this means natives.

By growing mostly exotic plants, you deter a new generation of insects.

Which in turn, can deter a new generation of birds..

You might as well put signs out the say ..............

No Kids Allowed.

What exactly are native plants?

These are the plants that were growing here before European settlers began to arrive and make major changes in the existing habitat and water to survive in local soils.

Plowing the prairie, cutting down forests and introducing plants from

the home country.

Naturalized plants are those that escaped captivity and have become a part of the landscape.

Wild daisies come to mind.

Don't let the name 'Naturalized' fool you.

More and more of us are beginning to recognize the value of native plants.

We know they are best suited to local conditions, and generally don’t require large doses of fertilizer and water to survive in local soils.

You are understanding the importance of insects and the need for natural plants and habitats.

“Welcome the Whole Family”

Plants attract hummingbirds, butterflies , bees, all sorts of bugs.

(Pictured, native Hibiscus, Native Phlox, non native Crocosmia.)

What we often don't see, is the ground level.

Covered by overgrown plant foliage.

A whole different world live there.

Untold numbers of insects (good and bad), and birds foraging.

This is one reason why I have birds all the time.

The checks and balances of the natural world keep native plants from becoming invasive plants and keep a healthy insect population to help pollinate, feed our birds, frogs, and bugs,

Beneficial Insects also feed on other bugs, and feed the birds.

We’re starting to recognize an even more important role for native plants as a food source for insects, which in turn, nurture birds and other wildlife.

Will you see insects on non native plants?

Oh sure, but research shows the value of native plants is more than

35 to 1.

It's the non native insects that cause the real problems.

To attract Birds to your yard, you must first feed the bugs.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

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

God Bless.

"True religion is real living; living with all one's soul, with all one's goodness and righteousness".

Albert Einstein

Interesting how so many positive quotes have a godly feel to them.

"Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor".

Proverbs 21-21

"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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