Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Thoughts on Bugs, Birds and the Benefits of Native Plants

I often wondered why the hordes of Japanese beetles that mobbed the ornamental grasses, roses, basil and other plants in our garden often went unnoticed by the chickadees, wrens and other birds that are regular visitors.  When those beetles launched themselves from the ground one warm day in June--in an event that was somewhat like the old TV thriller, The Twilight Zone, I was certain that the birds would feast on them just like they do on cicadas.  Wrong.

Doug Tallamy explains why that's not going to happen any time soon in his book, Bringing Nature Home.  Japanese beetles didn't evolve with chickadees or wrens.  But the beetles did evolve with the weeping Asiatic cherry that I planted in the front border.  Each year, the leaves looked like Swiss cheese come July, absolutely decimated by these voracious little monsters.  And so the cherry came out and was replaced with a native witch hazel.

Tallamy's book is a call for planting more natives in suburban gardens.  Plants that support native insect populations, which in turn support the birds and other creatures that rely on them as part of the food chain.  His book is a great read for any gardener.  You need not plant your entire yard with natives.  But my goal this year is to have at least one third of our acre dedicated to paw paw trees, sweet gum, Joe Pye weed and others that will bring in butterflies, moths, bees and other beneficial insects.  Check out his book...it's a good read for spring.  

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