Bountiful Bugs

Mountain Bluebird_ChicoBasinRanch-CO_LAH_1248-001The bulldozers are at it again. Another swath of short-grass prairie is being turned into houses. I can’t complain—I live in such a house. A mere three years ago, birds and bunnies made their home in what is now my yard. The voles and cottontails are still here and thriving, largely at the expense of my landscaping. The birds—assorted sparrows, hawks, Say’s Phoebes, Horned Larks, Scaled Quail, and Killdeer—decided to go elsewhere.

Now I’m trying to lure them back by replacing what nature has lost. Instead of the typical neighborhood rocks-and-grass “zero-scape,” we’ve included shrubs and trees that offer wildlife food and shelter. Native shrubs such as three-leaf sumac, manzanita, Boulder raspberry, buffaloberry, and chokecherry all offer berry-like fruit. Our roadside oak will one day provide acorns, the limber pines have seed-filled cones. Seeds come from native grasses and flowers, too, while dwarf conifers and dense shrubs offer a place to hide from predators and the weather. My nectar garden feeds hummingbirds and other pollinators. Feeders offer additional seeds and suet, and my heated birdbath is a year-round source of water.

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A Garden for Good Bugs

Monarch Butterfly_ChicoBasinRanch-CO_LAH_8874Why would I want to invite insects into my garden? Don’t most homeowners want to get rid of the bugs? It’s true that some insects cause major problems in a landscape, chewing indiscriminately and leaving behind a trail of devastation. But don’t let a few bad guys ruin it for everyone—there are plenty of insects who can live harmoniously among our plants. Some, such as bees, more than earn their keep. And who doesn’t enjoy a garden full of butterflies?

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IPM: Good Bugs and Other Garden Heroes

spider_dbg_lah_7406If we set a thief to catch a thief, then why not set a bug to eat a bug? Sometimes the best way to control an outbreak of an insect pest is to use another insect, or a close relative (such as spiders). Ladybugs, the most famous of these insect killers, are wimps compared to some of the other predatory critters in your garden. Lacewing larvae, ground beetles, praying mantises, wasps, hover flies, spiders… there are plenty of beasties who are more than happy to keep garden pests under control.

lacewing-on-cuphea-micropetala-cigar-plant-sanantoniobg-2003nov30-lah-001 (more…)