Landscaping is a very broad term, that when used in the context of wildlife
refers to the plant material which is used, how water is provided, how water
is conserved, man-made structures that are provided, food provided by man,
how pesticides are used, and how the food-chain is encouraged. All of these
things and more come together to create a "landscape".
Basic needs for attracting
animals and insects to the garden
Provided by man: seeds (including corn), fruit
Natural Vegetation: trees (living and dead), shrubs, flowers that
provide seeds, nuts, fruit, nectar, pollen, and which host insect
Needed for drinking, bathing, habitat and place to raise young for
Provided by man: bird baths, fountains, misters/drippers, ponds.
Trees (living and dead), dead trees especially, provide perches
for large birds.
Rock piles, brush piles, stone walls, evergreens, meadow or prairie
patches and water.
PLACE TO RAISE YOUNG
A more specific kind of cover is needed for courting and protecting
young animals. This ranges from nests for birds, shallow pools for
tadpoles to specific plants upon which caterpillars feed. Many of
these can be provided by man, including bird houses, bat and squirrel
boxes, and water sources.
Learn to tolerate weeds - Weeds provide shelter, and their flowers
attract many beneficial insects and butterfly caterpillars.
Decrease amount of mowed lawn - Mowed grass demands more fertilizer
and water, not to mention maintenance. Mowed grass provides little in
the way of food or shelter to wildlife.
Provide rough vegetation or brush piles at edge of yard - These
areas provide shelter for most all wildlife. No mowed area should be
too far from sheltering bushes or tall grasses.
Grow native plants - Most support 10-50 times as many species of
animals/insects as exotic plants. Native plants are well adapted and
therefore require less water and fertilizer.
Conserve water - Water extracted from the ground can effect the
water table, damaging habitats miles away. Diverting water from rivers
and lakes impacts fish, aquatic birds and mammals, among others. Conserve
water by mulching, watering with a soaker/drip hose, collecting rain
water, and by planting drought tolerant plants.
Cut back on pesticides - Most will also kill beneficial insects,
as well as birds and other animals. Remember, to have butterflies, you
have to have caterpillars! BT, Bacillus Thuringiensis, is commonly used
for caterpillar pests such as cabbage butterfly caterpillars. Although
it is very useful for this, remember, it will just as easily kill monarch
butterfly caterpillars if sprayed indiscriminately.
Cut back on chemical fertilizers - Use of chemical fertilizers discourages
basic elements of the food chain, such as earthworms. Composting and
using cover crops encourages the natural cycle. Grow native plant varieties
which generally need less fertilizer.
Attracting specific animals and insects
to your garden
Food - The simplest way to attract birds is to provide a birdfeeder
with seeds. A variety of seeds will provide the largest variety of birds.
Common choices are sunflower, niger, millet, suet, and corn. Different types
of feeders suit different birds, and can be purchased or made from simple
plans. To attract small clinging birds, provide hanging feeders with small
access holes. Some birds, such as juncos, prefer open tray feeders, or seed
scattered on the ground.
Natural vegetation provides berries, seeds and insects. (See list below)
Water - Provide water year round if possible. Electric birdbath
heaters are available for $25.00 and up. A variety of water sources attracts
the largest variety of birds. Open baths, fountains, drippers/misters, and
ponds are all useful. Robins, for example, won't eat food put out by people,
but will appreciate a birdbath very much.
Shelter/raising young - Provide birdhouses, trees (living and
dead), brush piles, and shrubs, especially near food, or between nests and
food. Dead trees provide perches and homes for many birds.
Flowerbeds that are best suited for birds are ones where weeds are allowed
to co-exist. If this is not acceptable, a good compromise is a flowerbed
where some wildflowers are allowed to exist. Remember, the next time someone
comes to see your garden "un-weeded", tell them that you'd love to weed,
but you know the birds prefer it this way...
Food - Providing a wide variety of flowers is the easiest way
to attract butterflies. Because of the design of the proboscis, or tube
which draws up the nectar, the best flower designs for butterflies are tubular.
Also, the overall size of the flower can determine which butterflies will
feed at which flowers. A skipper is too small to feed at a large-flowered
sage, but a swallowtail will do just fine. Many of the best butterfly flowers
are clusters of small single blossoms, arranged on a horizontal plane, such
as Queen Anne's Lace or yarrow. Fragrance is an important quality of butterfly
butterfly feeders are now available which use a sugar/water
Water - Provide water in shallow dishes throughout the garden.
Butterflies also get moisture from ripe fruit and decaying animals.
Shelter - Recently,
butterfly boxes have become commercially
available. Most butterflies
need sun. They are inactive on cloudy days but become active when the sun
raises their body temperature. Plant your butterfly plants in full sun,
and provide flat rocks for sunning and drying wings.
Raising young - Native plants are important for providing food
for caterpillars. While the adult butterfly may be less specific in their
food requirements, they generally lay their eggs on or near the plant which
will provide food for the caterpillars. Some caterpillars such as the Buckeye,
Painted Lady, Comma and Mourning Cloak will eat a wide variety of food plants.
But some, are more specific. Monarchs prefer milkweed, whites prefer the
mustard family and sulphurs prefer clover. Some are extremely particular.
The Anice Swallowtail only feeds on fennel, and the Spicebush Swallowtail
feeds on spicebush.
Specific plant choices for butterflies:
Birch - Attracts Mourning Cloak, Tiger Swallowtail, and White Admiral
Dogwood - Attracts Spring Azure
Elm - Attracts Comma, Mourning Cloak and Question Mark
Hawthorn - Attracts Red-spotted Purple, White Admiral and Grey Hairstreak
Food - There are many commercial hummingbird feeders available
which are filled with a solution of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. The most
important consideration is whether the feeder can be taken apart for cleaning.
The best place to put feeders is near flowers that attract hummingbirds.
Also, choose a site protected from wind and full sun (which can make the
sugar solution spoil quicker). Locate the feeder where you can watch it
regularly, as they are quite entertaining!
Of course, flowers provide the most natural food for hummingbirds. Some
flowers have become specially adapted to attracting hummingbirds. They actually
exclude or discourage other flower visitors. Most such flowers are red.
This is because bees see red as a blackish color and are not particularly
attracted to it. Most of the flowers are also tubular, as bees and others
do not have tongues long enough to reach the nectar. Finally most have no
fragrance, making them unattractive to bees, whereas birds have very little
sense of smell. Place flowers in different areas of your yard to make it
harder for one bird to claim all of the flowers.
Hummingbirds also eat insects and spiders from trees, and insects inside
flowers from which they sip nectar.
Water - Hummingbirds do all or most of their drinking at flowers
when they sip nectar, but they also need places to bathe. They will use
any water available, including drops of water on a leaf or the spray from
a sprinkler. It can be helpful to place rocks in your birdbath, so hummingbirds
can stand in the water.
Shelter/Raising Young - Most hummingbird nests contain downy
plant fibers held together with spider silk and coated on the outside with
lichens. Provide a wide variety of plants to give the female a choice of
nesting material. Hummingbirds are territorial over nectar sources. Provide
some perches from which the bird can survey its territory. Dead tree limbs
are good choices.
Specific plant choices for hummingbirds:
Flowering Crab ( Malus spp.)
Hawthorne (Crataegus spp.)
Horse Chestnut (Aesculus glabra)
Tulip Poplar (liriodendron tulipifera)
Shrub Species of Willow. Seeds are connected to fine filaments which
are often used as nesting material. The birds also feed on the
of willow flowers and eat the insects that the willow flowers attract.
Many insects are considered beneficial because they cause little damage
themselves, yet help control other damaging insects. Best of all they are
safe, free and often fun to watch!
The best way to encourage them is to learn to identify them in both their
adult and larval stages. For example, ladybugs are very beneficial, but
their larval stage looks quite different and might not be recognized. Also,
Spined Soldier bugs look a lot like stink bugs.
Another important way to avoid killing beneficial insects in your yard
is to be very specific when you do feel you need to use pesticides. Spraying
large areas with non-specific insecticides is sure to kill beneficial insects.
Some beneficial insects are sold commercially by companies such as
Alive! (see address below). They offer such items as Ladybugs ($10/1000),
Praying Mantis ($7/3 egg clusters), and Green Lacewings ($10/1000). Releasing
insects is especially useful in a greenhouse.
aphids, beetles, grasshoppers, mosquitoes
aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, mealybugs
aphids, thrips, spider mites, scale, whitefly
spined soldier bug
colorado potato beetle, mexican bean beetle
caterpillars, cornborers, stink bugs, especially tent caterpillars
and army worms
Food - Beneficial insects will stay around as long as there
is food. Leave some weeds among vegetables to provide alternate food sources.
Water - Provide shallow water sources, or fill a dish with stones
for insects to drink from.
Shelter/Raising young - Permanent pathways and beds provide
protected areas for hiding when you're cultivating. A hedge or windbreak
reduces dust which can dehydrate beneficial insects.
Food - Toads consume about 10,000-20,000 insects per year, including
slugs, flies, grubs, wood lice, cutworms and grasshoppers. Once a toad makes
a home in your garden, it may live there for decades. A common garden toad
in the midwest is the Plains spadefoot toad, which burrows into dry soil.
Water/Raising young - Adult toads need water for drinking and
Shelter - Toads need shelter from predators, and man-made hazards
such as lawn mowers. Rock gardens and stone walls provide good shelter for
toads. You can also dig depressions in the garden and loosely cover with
a board, or half bury a terra cotta flower pot on its side in the garden.
Food - Bats can eat up to 600 mosquitoes per night, in addition
to moths and beetles. Although bats can carry rabies, only about 15 cases
have been attributed to bats in the last 30 years. Victims generally picked
up a diseased bat off the ground. If you must move an injured bat, use a
Shelter/Raising young -
Bat houses are available commercially,
or you can build your own. Bat houses have the opening at the bottom, with
vertical slats inside for the bats to hang onto.
There are 115 species of snakes in North America, and only 4 are poisonous:
rattlesnake, copperheads, coral snakes and cottonmouths (water moccasins).
Common garden snakes eat slugs, snails and insects. Some others eat mice
and rats. Most will only bite if handled or stepped on.
Owls are beautiful birds which provide early morning music as pairs call
to each other. Great Horned owls are common in this area. They set up their
nests by Christmas and have laid eggs by early February.
Food - Owls prey on small mammals and birds.
Shelter/Raising young - Great Horned owls usually take over
nests built by crows or hawks, while Barred owls often nest in hollow trees
or nesting boxes provided by man.
This program is a way to register your yard as one which encourages Wildlife.
After evaluating your yard, and filling out an application, the information
is reviewed by the National Wildlife Foundation naturalists. They look for
the basic elements discussed above- food, water, cover and a place to raise
young. Once your yard is certified, you receive a personalized certificate
from the National Wildlife Foundation, recognizing your yard as an official
Backyard Wildlife Habitat. Your habitat is assigned its own unique number
and is entered in a National Register.
The Home Habitat Society
This organization focuses on individual lifestyles. Members manage their
property for the benefit of wildlife. They attempt to lessen the negative
effect of development on the quality of our environment. Home Ground is
published quarterly. Home Habitat Society, P.O. Box 412 Taneytown, MD 21787
Membership in the Home Habitat Society, including subscription to Home Ground,
is $12 per year (4 issues).