Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bringing nature home

To Feed the Birds, First Feed the Bugs

A couple's attempt at planting a garden that is attractive to wildlife:

“...I’m not trying to recreate the ancient ecosystem,” said Mr. Tallamy, who is chairman of the department of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, in Newark, Del., 15 miles southeast of here. “That is gone. I’m trying to create biodiversity...”

It seems the real secret is providing habitat and food plants for a variety of insects:

“...I went to take this black cherry out and there were 13 tiger swallowtail larvae on it,” he said...“Anybody else would pull this out, but see this?” he asked, pointing to a drab little remnant of a leaf that some young larva had fashioned into a winter home. “That’s a little hybernaculum for the red-spotted purple, which is a butterfly that people want in their gardens...”

...Almost all North American birds other than seabirds — 96 percent — feed their young with insects, which contain more protein than beef, he writes. So the message is loud and clear: gardeners could slow the rate of extinction by planting natives in their yards. In the northeast, a patch of violets will feed fritillary caterpillars. A patch of phlox could support eight species of butterflies. The buttonbush shrub, which has little white flowers, feeds 18 species of butterflies and moths; and blueberry bushes, which support 288 species of moths and butterflies, thrive in big pots on a terrace. (Appropriate species for other regions are listed by local native plant societies.)...

What a great project for all us Green Wiccans! The book, by Mr. Tallamy, is called “Bringing Nature Home” (Timber Press, $27.95). It will be published in November.

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