Garden Advice: Don’t Buy Ladybugs

Ladybug_XG-CoSpgsCO_LAH_9349Every gardener knows that ladybugs are “good” bugs because they eat “bad” bugs. Educated gardeners know that ladybugs are actually beetles, and that they eat aphids, scale insects, immature beetles and true bugs, and mites. The adults are efficient predators; the larvae are even more voracious. No wonder we want lady beetles in our gardens!

The simplest way to get lots of these colorful beetles is to buy them, and many people do just that. It’s a huge industry. However, buying ladybugs is largely a waste of money, and may even harm the environment! There are better ways to attract not only ladybugs but other beneficial insects as well.

Continue reading “Garden Advice: Don’t Buy Ladybugs”

But Where Are the Birds?

Steller's Jay_BlkForest_20100424_LAH_3670The birdfeeder had been up for weeks, but no birds came to dine. My friend was understandably frustrated. “Why won’t the birds come to my yard?” she asked. “I spent all this money on a feeder and birdseed, but they don’t seem to care!”

I thought about all the birds flocking around my assortment of feeders, and tried to see the differences. What was she doing—or not doing—that I was doing differently? We both lived in suburbia, amid rows of houses with lawns and trees and shrubs. In fact, we were only a few miles apart. So why did I have finches and doves and hummingbirds (and more), and she did not?

Continue reading “But Where Are the Birds?”

Welcoming Butterflies

742-butterfly-on-lavenderInsects have a pretty crummy reputation. Not too many people are enamored with flies, roaches, or wasps. Yet, there are a few exceptions, such as ladybugs, honeybees (in the right setting), and of course, butterflies. Who doesn’t appreciate butterflies? We’re taken with their beauty, and we hope they’ll visit our gardens. Happily, there are a number of steps we gardeners  can take to encourage these “flying flowers.” Creating a landscape that welcomes butterflies isn’t difficult, and it will appeal to people just as much as it does to the butterflies.

Most importantly, don’t spray insecticides in your yard. You’re trying to encourage butterflies and caterpillars, not kill them! If you do have a pest problem, make sure to identify the culprits before taking action. Sometimes spraying isn’t the best option. If you decide you need to apply a pesticide, use it selectively on the plants under attack. Don’t go wild with the sprayer.

Continue reading “Welcoming Butterflies”

Berries for the Birds

american-robin-in-russian-hawthorn_xg_20091215_lah_5562xHow would you like to have a flock of robins outside your window? How about other thrushes, waxwings, sparrows, towhees, or vireos? Want to add Western Tanager to your yard list?

Along with finches, grosbeaks, thrushes, some warblers, Northern Mockingbird, Townsend’s Solitaire, chickadees, nuthatches, swallows, woodpeckers, pigeons/doves, jays, and even hummingbirds (who drink the juice), all these birds eat berries at some point.*

Planting shrubs and trees that produce berries is a great way to attract more species of birds. Even better, plant several kinds of berries, since each bird species has its favorites.

Continue reading “Berries for the Birds”