Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Feeding Your Bugs

ursulav talks about the importance of native plants for feeding insects, which feed birds, and generally help the ecosystem.

I like native plants.  Our butterfly meadow is mostly prairie grasses and a few flowers.  What gets eaten the most?  The milkweed.  I also make a point of putting out some food plants for caterpillars, as many of these plants are enjoyed by other beneficial insects.  When I plant parsley, I always designate some for the baby butterflies, as this is a favored food source of swallowtails.  Wild honeybees nest in a tree, busily visiting flowers.

Last year, my black raspberry patch turned into a waist-high jungle just crawling  with bugs.  The funny thing was, they ate each other.  The berries were almost untouched, the leaves only a bit nibbled.  There were dozens of bugs in a food web clearly several layers deep, with many cross-connections.  I'm sure the birds ate their share of the bugs, too.  But mostly the bugs just seethed over a voluminously healthy berry patch.  I hope it happens again this year, now that I'm borrowing a camera that can do closeups.

Today natasiakith and I planted a blueberry bush.  (It's one of four.  Very tiring work.)  We shoveled up a lot of compost and bark mulch, full of worms, sowbugs, and dozens of fast-moving orange-red centipedes.  That's the detritus ecosystem down there, breaking down chunks of dead stuff into lovely fluffy soil rich in organic compounds.

Life is lively.  My yard is full of live things.  I only swat them if they attack me or look like they're going to attack me, or if they come into the house and annoy us.  Outside, it's their world too and I prefer to share it with them.  I am not comfortable in "outdoor" places where nothing is alive but the paint-green "lawn."  It's like being in air that's too thin.  I want an ecosystem around me, or at least as much of one as I can assemble.  My detritus piles are full of happy little crawlers.  My patch of meadow may not be a "real" prairie but it works tolerably well and is slowly improving.  (There's someone a few miles from here who has what looks to be approaching a conservation-grade prairie patch.)  My trees are full of birds: seed-eaters, insect-eaters, flesh-eaters, omnivores.  There are snakes, mice, voles, skunks, possums, raccoons, foxes, and deer in the vicinity.  A few days ago we heard courting coyotes squealing nearby.  It makes me happy to hear and see things moving around outside.  Around the yard is a near-wasteland of monocrops, but here is an island of prairie, savannah, forest ... life.
Tags: gardening, illinois, nature, personal

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