Bring on the Bugs!

Despite our desire to have a beautiful garden, all gardeners would do well to consider the role our plant selection plays in nurturing our soul AND the environment. How many of us would go running for the pesticides when we came upon these caterpillars chewing up our vine? But, would you kill a butterfly? These pipevine swallowtail caterpillars are indeed stripping the native pipevine. In a few days, they pupate and the vine quickly recovers. Take care to try and recognize beneficial and desirable insects. I regularly consult the beautiful book BUTTERFLIES OF ALABAMA by Sara Bright and Paulette Ogard.

When it comes to plant selection, we have many native plants that provide nectar, and many that are great larva food sources. These images illustrate a planting of native beardtongue, Penstemon digitalis, nectar source, and native pipevine, Aristolochia macrophylla, the ONLY larva food source for the pipevine swallowtail butterfly. This garden has lots of butterfly activity, as well as a thriving bird population feeding and nesting within the garden. Pesticide use is kept at a minimum, and fire ants are the most serious pest.

Treat yourself to a read of Doug Tallamy’s BRINGING NATURE HOME. It will really raise your awareness level. You may never look at your garden the same way again.

Mike Rushing

Mike and Paula Rushing have been gardening in St. Clair county since 1990, and In Forest Park since 2007. A Jefferson County Master Gardener and course instructor at Master Gardening classes, Mike also volunteers weekly at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

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