Create a Haven for Birds, Bees, and Butterflies

Sooner or later, we will have to recognise that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans. Evo Morales

Like people, gardens are a community of plants, shrubs, birds, insects, and peopleAnd, like my community, most people are good.  For the few that aren’t, we try to weed them out.  Unfortunately, in our gardens, we often weed out the good with the bad.

Up to 99% of insects are either harmless or beneficial.  Beneficial insects pollinate flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees.  Others help to keep pests under control.  Many insects are food for birds.  Unfortunately, many pesticides and lawn chemicals kill all insects, seriously impacting the productivity of our gardens, harming our environment, and reducing the number of songbirds.  We must avoid using systemic pesticides.

Have you ever wondered why your plum tree was full of blossoms but bore no fruit?  Where were the pollinators?  Pollinators in the urban garden include bees, hover flies, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, ants, midges, beetles and, believe it or not, mosquitos.

Bees are the most important, ensuring your fruit trees and berry bushes fruit, your flowers seed, and squash and cucumbers are set. To attract bees, provide food in the form of a wide variety of flowers, fruit trees, and berry bushes.

Solitary bees such as the mason bee are important pollinators.  They live alone, do not sting, and make their nests in small cavities in mid to late summer.  The eggs hatch in the spring.  To increase the number of solitary bees, build a bee hotel, a box with a roof, and an open front, placed facing south.  In the box are paper or cardboard tubes of different diameters, or rounds of wood with holes drilled into the rounds.  The female lays her eggs in the summer; they hatch in the spring and pollinate as they eat and gather pollen.

One of my most memorable moments in gardening was watching 500 or more cedar waxwings landing in my yard to strip berries from my mountain ash tree.  Obviously, the tree couldn’t handle all 500; they took turns in groups of 50 or so landing on the tree, eating their share, then leaving for the next group.

The song of the robin in early spring, the cheery melody of the chickadee, or the rap-rap-rap of a piliated woodpecker is as entertaining as my favorite music.  Of course, the raucous cacophony of magpies reminds me of music I dislike.

In our backyard, we have seen over 25 species of birds.  Some of the less common ones were Crossbills, Warblers, White-Crowned Sparrows, White Throat Sparrows, Orioles, and Swainson’s Thrush.

Put up one or more bird houses.  And don’t forget the bird bath.  Water attracts birds to drink and bathe.  Remember to keep the water clean, changing it frequently.  And in the summer, don’t forget the hummingbird feeder.

Another garden delight are pretty butterflies, in oranges, reds, mauves, and even whites.  There are 26 varieties in Alberta ranging from the White Cabbage, Tiger, Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, Fritillary, to the Melissa Blue.  Except for the cabbage butterfly they do little damage to your garden.

What can you do to attract and keep birds, bees, and butterflies in your yard?

Most importunately, drastically limit the use of pesticides in your yard.

Provide food for the birds by planting trees and shrubs such as cotoneaster, dogwood, blueberry or saskatoon that provide fruit and berries. Feed birds in the winter with a variety of foods to attract a variety of birds.

Plant a variety of flowers for bees and butterflies to feast on.  When eating the nectar, pollen rubs off on their body or proboscis and is transferred to the next flower.  Flowers may include aster, fireweed, bachelor button, blanket flower, or black-eyed Susan. Butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves of these flowers.


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