Attract beneficial wildlife to your backyard

How about inviting some bugs over to your garden?

No, we’re not talking about pests. We’re talking about creating gardens that attract beneficial insects and wildlife, like butterflies and bees.

As populations increase and more houses are built, insects and other wildlife are displaced and their habitats destroyed. Wildlife gardening is a way to mitigate the effects on insect population.

Wildlife gardening is a new trend among green thumbs, providing many benefits for the gardener and for wildlife. Imagine a monarch butterfly or a hummingbird hovering over your prized blooms.

By welcoming beneficial insects, you’re keeping pests at bay naturally. Horticulturist Susan McDonald says many insects are useful to gardeners.
“The common beneficial ones are ladybugs,” said McDonald. Ladybugs and lady beetles are often called a gardener’s best friend because they feed on aphids and other pests.

“The ones that are lesser known and lesser seen are parasitic wasps,” she said. The wasps help by injecting their eggs into insect pests. The eggs hatch and eventually kill their host.

In addition to protecting your plants, some insects are especially useful in pollination.

“You always want to attract butterflies,” she added. “They’re great pollinators. Bees are a really big deal right now because their numbers are dropping significantly. We need them to live. Period.”

According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, you can attract wildlife easily by providing food, water, shelter and space.

The easiest way to provide food and space is to have a variety of plants in your yard. An assortment of flowers is like a food buffet that attracts a diverse mix of insects. As McDonald said, “If you grow it, they will come.”

It also helps to leave some of the pests to entice the beneficial bugs.

“You need your beneficial bugs to have something to eat,” said McDonald. “If they lose their entire food source, then they’re going to go to somebody else’s yard. A little bit of tolerance is a good thing.”

Growing clover and dandelions may also help attract bees and other good insects. Replacing your lawn with a diverse collection of native plants is a good idea. Apart from being the least supportive of wildlife, grass requires a lot of chemicals, fertilizer and water.

Artificial habitats can be a safe haven for wildlife. Ron Bellingham of B-Crafters of Kamloops makes ladybug, bat, butterfly and bee houses. These miniature houses help shelter insects from harsh elements while encouraging wildlife to stay in your yard.

“One advantage of the ladybug houses is that they winter over in these little homes and a new generation appears in the spring; you get a recycling concept,” he said.

Fountains or a birdbath with half-submerged stones can help birds, bugs and other wildlife cool off. Make sure the water is clean and is changed regularly.

With a little bit of planning, your backyard or garden can be transformed into a welcoming space for wildlife. The birds, butterflies and bees will thank you for it.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation has a Certified Backyard Habitat program that acknowledges people who practice wildlife gardening.

To apply online, visit www.wildaboutgardening.org.

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