Is it possible to have a beautiful garden without using pesticides and herbicides? In my experience, it has been easy to have a healthy garden that doesn’t require chemical pest control.
Reducing our reliance on chemicals protects butterflies, and invites wildlife to step in and manage the unwanted insect population.
Birds feed their offspring mostly insects and caterpillars because insects are easy to digest when the baby birds are young and vulnerable. One nest of baby birds need more than 5,000 caterpillars to develop and be ready to fledge.
Adult birds, including hummingbirds, also rely on insects for protein and calories.
The images below show a kingbird after it captured a potato bug. The kingbird flew with the insect to a nearby elderberry bush and proceeded to smack the insect against a branch before eating it.
If you had killed the potato bug, the kingbird would have gone hungry. Sterilizing the outdoors with chemicals may be part of the reason terrestrial birds in the United States have declined by 3 billion birds since the 1970.
Instead of using pesticides, you can let birds and beneficial insects like the praying mantis shown below, do the work for you.
Although birds and beneficial insects help with pest control, some pests are better managed by the gardener.
I remove tiny orange aphids that are attracted to native narrow-leaf milkweed by squishing them with my fingers. First I make sure there aren’t any pearly monarch eggs nearby. The aphids are soft, and removing them takes about 10 seconds.
I recently heard an entomologist say adult monarch butterflies won’t lay their eggs on milkweed that has aphids, so I keep an eye on my milkweed plants and make sure to smash the aphids when they appear.
Before reaching for a pesticide, remember the possible harm chemicals can do to birds, butterflies, and bees. When you preserve the web of life in your garden, you will have fewer pests naturally, and a thriving butterfly population too.