It’s not just the pollinators: Promoting a balanced ecosystem

We know that the number and diversity of insects is decreasing. And we know we’re to blame – at least in part. Although we can’t change the world, we do have influence on our little piece of the world: our yards, fields and woods.

The energy of any ecosystem starts with the sun. Animals have no way of directly harnessing the sun’s energy to convert it to food. Only plants have chlorophyll, and only they can use the sun’s energy to turn carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates. If we’re going to create or maintain a healthy ecosystem, it must start with the plants. But not any plant will do. Plant nurseries are fond of selling us pest-free plants. But what does that mean? Generally, the plant is pest-free because it is foreign, exotic, and our native insects can’t eat it. One might argue that it has wonderful flowers, like butterfly bushes (Buddleia sp.), that attract lots of insects. True enough, but only a minority of insects are pollinators, and, if we want to support a diverse ecosystem, we need plants that insects can also eat. Those herbivorous insects, in turn, provide food for the birds and other wild animals that we cherish.

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