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  • Susan Russell

Biodiversity in Our Backyards-Create a Sanctuary!

ACES column June 5, 2020 by Ellen Neumaier

“How can you take caterpillars away without taking away baby birds?” asks entomologist, Dr. Doug Tallamy, at a recent webinar sponsored by the WNY Land Conservancy. His central message is that “unless we restore native plants to our suburban ecosystems, the future of biodiversity in the United States is dim.”

Kevin McNallie, Western District Nursery Manager at Knox Park, is giving us an opportunity to include native species in our yards and gardens. He has been raising plants, many from seed from the area around East Aurora, that he supplies to State Parks in the WNY region. He will have a limited number of them that he will sell through Masterson’s Garden Center on Olean Road. People have said they have trouble finding native species at nurseries. These will be true natives.

It’s all about the interconnection of our ecosystem. The plant that feeds the caterpillars, feeds the baby birds and so on. Our environment eventually feeds us too. Each third bite of food we eat is only made possible by a pollinator.

Birds, bees, air, water, trees, worms—lots of different pictures connected by a string. This was a game we used with third-grade children. We asked them to choose one to take away, then asked what would happen. The idea was to help them understand that everything in nature relies on each other.

We all know that monarch butterflies need native milkweed to survive. Orioles seem to need that milkweed also. I watched a female oriole fly back and forth, time after time, to visit the milkweed stalks I had left in my garden. She was stripping off the silky threads and taking them to her nest. The beautifully built nest now hangs high up in a maple tree by the creek. There were many other options for her to choose from. She ALWAYS went to the milkweed patches.

During the quarantine we have been incubating much like an insect, eating a lot, cocooning ourselves much like a chrysalis. Hopefully we will emerge as something finer—just like a caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly. Like the butterfly we will have to work hard to emerge to a “new normal.” Having been forced to slow down, we thankfully, blissfully have had time to think and prioritize.

Can we all take a small bit of our yards to plant beneficial native plants?

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