The Birds and The Bugs
Jun 23, 2021
How can you achieve the “perfect yard,” one with beautiful plants, a green lawn, and healthy trees? Start with creating a space that will invite natural pest suppressors: the birds! They're your "pest protection"!
Most backyard birds eat a combination of seeds, berries and insects. But in late spring and early summer, when garden pests are at their peak, birds are busy feeding their newly hatched young, who like nothing better than freshly caught bugs.
The world's birds eat 450 to 550 million tons of insects each year. That's as many as 20 quadrillion individual bugs, a study reports.1 Birds play an important role in keeping plant-eating insect populations under control, as they consume plant-eating insects like beetles, cabbage worms, earwigs, grubs, flies, ants, moths, aphids, grasshoppers and crickets – just to name a few!
Want to keep the bird bug-eaters content in your yard? Keep your feeders filled with a quality seed blend that will appeal to chickadees, grosbeaks, cardinals, nuthatches and sparrows. Suet and seed cakes will attract titmice and woodpeckers to your yard, and while there, will round out their meals with some insect larvae and other delicacies. Don’t forget a bird bath as it will attract many additional bird species, outside of feeder birds, that will help and add to the fun!
Using birds for pest control instead of harmful pesticides also protects pollinating insects like bees and butterflies. Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce, including more than 3,500 species of native bees. Many of the foods and crops we rely on need or benefit from bee pollination.
While bees are considered essential pollinators, recent discoveries suggest butterflies are effective in pollinating crops where bees don’t visit. Until now, butterflies had not been taken seriously as pollinators because they are not considered major players in commercial food crops. However, a paper published this year found that butterflies were responsible for about one third of cotton pollination in Texas.2 If the results are found in other crops, butterflies may be added to a short list of commercially important pollinators.
Butterflies also contribute to the pollination of fruit and flowers. As they spend their day floating from one large, brightly colored, scented flower to another, they gather pollen on their legs when walking around the flower clusters. Zinnias, daisies, mimosa and butterfly bush are favorites. June 21-27 is #PollinatorWeek, so do what you can to protect and preserve these important insects!
The next time you see or hear a bird in your yard or watch a butterfly gracefully fluttering about, take comfort in knowing that they're helping keep your garden healthy and looking good.
1“Insectivorous birds consume an estimated 400–500 million tons of prey annually,” The Science of Nature, 2018.
2“Butterflies provide ‘extraordinary’ help pollinating cotton fields,” Science Magazine, April 12, 2021.