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By David Yost, Plant Specialist

This week I saw my first hummingbird of the season! 

I started adding flowers and feeders to my garden about three years ago to attract insects and hummingbirds. Now I look forward to the return of these phenomenal birds with the same excitement and anticipation as I do the first flowers of spring.

Making your garden inviting and hospitable to birds, butterflies and other insects is easy, exciting and extremely important.

In 2007, Doug Tallamy, Chairman of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, authored “Bringing Nature Home.” Dr. Tallamy encourages us to take a different look at our gardens and view them as a food chain. He connects the dots between the plants, insects that feed on the plants and the birds that feed on the insects. As natural habitats decline, there are fewer native plants to support the insects that birds need to feed their young.

As gardeners, we can have a positive influence on preserving these food chains. We need to create diverse gardens, utilize native plants and learn to live with insects. Changing our mindset from seeing insects as enemies to seeing them as friends may be one of the biggest challenges to making this happen.

This is a win/win endeavor for all. Did you realize that the hardy Cranesbill geranium can support up to 23 different species of butterflies and moths? Now, who doesn’t love geraniums and butterflies? Did you know that Joe-Pye weed, with its magenta/pink blooms in late summer, can support 42 species of butterflies and moths. Or that the under-appreciated, misunderstood goldenrod is capable of supporting up to 115 species? This is great stuff!

These same flowers also offer nectar and pollen to bees, flies and beetles, including many that will prey on other insects, helping to limit pest outbreaks. All we need to do is to plant the garden!

Several years ago, I moved into a pretty sterile environment surrounded by asphalt and turf. Gradually the turf has been replaced with flowers and groundcovers, and the insects have been accepting my invitation to visit. It’s exciting to find bees gathering pollen from the geraniums and verbena, and hummingbird moths feeding at the phlox. For awhile, I had a praying mantis that visited me every morning. It’s not much, but every little bit helps.

You’ll discover new ways to enjoy your garden if you make it more inviting to insects. And you’ll help restore and preserve long-established food chains that support life everywhere. Now tell me, does it get any better than this?
Posted: 6/1/2011 12:56:13 PM


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