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What's bugging you? May 10, 2017

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Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Adult)

When was the last time you walked through your garden and noticed all the activity going on before your nose? I'm not talking about the fragrance of your flowers. What about all the beasties in your garden?

I only have two weeds left to discuss in my weed series which will fill out this month. My next series will look into the miniature wildlife that already inhabits the oasis you call your garden and what can be done to attract more of the good guys.

We will discuss butterflies and moths, the birds and bees, including bumblebees and other bees, wasps and flies that are often overlooked. We will visit the predator insects that so often keep our garden pests in check or at least at tolerable levels.

One of the many problems that our miniature wildlife faces is our desire to plant and maintain a well-ordered and neat landscape. You might like this but fauna does not. It will become obvious that we will need to plant more native, adapted plants rather than the ones that we remember from places that we used to live in that are so different from those where we live now.

Also, you will need to think more perennials rather than annuals. Our beasties need a more permanent plant selection and a varied one as well. Not only will our plants need to provide food such as nectar and pollen, but also leaves and other plant material to munch on.

Shelter and water may be needed as well, especially during the winter when most plants are dormant. And absolutely clean gardens are a no-no if you want to attract and maintain a thriving miniature wildlife community. Fall garden cleanup is not advised.

And yes, you will have to tolerate a less than perfect landscape with some insect feeding damage present. But if you desire an absolutely clean garden and rush to get out the pesticide sprayer at the first evidence of insect feeding activity, then don't expect to have much success at attracting the charming wildlife we call butterflies, moths, honeybees, praying mantis, ladybird beetles, birds and other charming creatures we love to watch during our nature walks.

So what I am going to be talking about here will be how to redirect your gardening approach to provide an environment that not only attracts adult birds and insects but also provides food to rear their young. Think of this as your contribution to sound stewardship of our common and in some cases threatened miniature wildlife.

Jim Leser retired to Cedaredge in 2007 after a career with Texas A&M University Extension in entomology. He is a member of the Cedaredge Tree Board and a Colorado Master Gardener.

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Jim Leser, What's Bugging You
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