Enjoy bird song? The brilliant flash of butterfly wings? Or practical considerations like natural insect control? Then invite wildlife into your backyard.
Birds: Bird seed and suet will entice a surprising variety of birds to your yard. Provide a mixed seed collection to appeal to different palettes, and the birds will flock. Don’t worry about seed falling on the dirt. Ground feeders, like California quail and juncos, will gladly “clean up” after the messy eaters. Birdbaths, bird houses, and trees will also lure the feathered creatures, providing water and shelter.
Butterflies: Plant flowers* in sunny locations to provide nectar and the sun’s heat to warm these beautiful insects. In return, they’ll pollinate your flower garden. Butterflies like bright blooms that are flat-topped, clustered, or short tubed. Sow different plants to provide blooms for the whole of summer. Particular Utah favorites include butterfly bush, milkweed, verbena, clematis, salvia, lavender, and daisies.
Rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks: As you may recall from Peter Rabbit, long-eared rodents like lettuce and French beans. Rabbits also like broad-leaf weeds, berries, clover, and grasses. Squirrels enjoy a delicious blend of corn, sunflower seeds, and peanuts in the shell. Chipmunks are more omnivorous, chowing on bird eggs, worms, and frogs, as well as grains, nuts, and fungi. In addition to food, these skittish creatures need places to hide and nest. Dead wood and brush piles provide such enclaves of safety.
Bats: Did you know bats control insect populations? A single little brown bat can eat up to 1,000 insects in one hour. Seventy percent of bats are strictly insectivores. However, because of chemical insecticides and habitat loss, the number of bats is plummeting. Invite bats to your yard with bat houses to provide them safety. Then, come dusk, sit back and watch their aerobatics as they swoop to catch their prey.
Bees: Bees are easy to entice: flowers, flowers, and more flowers and NO INSECTIDE. Bees are intricate to the pollination of most of the world’s flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruits, yet they too are threatened. Plant a flower, if only to help save them.
*When planting, native flora is best. Natives are hardy and already adapted to our high desert conditions and soil, requiring less water, fertilizer, and general maintenance. Plus, native animals co-evolved with native plants; it’s their food of choice.
First published in Pets in the City Magazine, June 2015