Where are the bugs?
I have been noticing differences before and after Ian in our bug population. Can you imagine how hard it was for all the various insects to survive our tremendous tropical storm? Some seem to have done better than others.
We had an explosion of gnats for a while, that we attributed to the piles of debris at every house. We have had a burst of Monarch butterflies, too. Normally wasps eat many of the caterpillars, but I have seen no wasps, so all the caterpillars are growing up to be butterflies. I see fewer bumble bees, sweat bees and leaf cutter bees that occur only in Florida. Insects, who are at the bottom of the food chain, are out of whack. Insect populations were already in decline due to human development. Birds are also in decline. Is there a connection?
Birds will be nesting soon and will need to find high protein bugs and worms to feed their young or they will go hungry. The University of Delaware, conducting research on chickadee feeding patterns, determined that it took between 5,000 to 9,000 insects to raise one brood of baby chickadees.
Yet each one of us can help to bring these insect populations back. How can we help?
Stop spraying the whole yard for bugs. Yes, spray around doorways and windows to keep insects from entering your house. If you notice a bug problem in the lawn or on a particular plant, spray it appropriately. But do not spray routinely, killing the butterflies, moths, bees and other “good” or harmless bugs. When my neighbor has his yard sprayed, I find dead butterflies the next day in my own yard. Not good! We need our insects to preserve the food chain of our natural environment.
Replace areas damaged by Ian with plants that will support bees and other insects. Plants such as climbing aster, tea bush beautyberry and firebush, will flower and supply abundant nectar and pollen for many pollinators. To supply caterpillar food for butterflies, plant passion vine, Bahama cassia, privet senna and frogfruit. Variety is important, as each species prefers different plants.
Plants native to Florida will provide food that insects recognize and can use. Native plants also require less watering, as they are adapted to the rainy and dry seasons. We can help our biodiversity bounce back by providing the food plants they need.
Butterfly Gardens: To see butterflies and the plants they love, visit the
South Cape Coral Library. The butterfly garden in the courtyard is open again! To see it, go THROUGH the library toward the windows behind the main desk, where you can see the butterfly garden. Enter the garden from the door on the right.
The Friends of the CC Library have recently donated tables and a shade cloth cover for the pergola, making the courtyard a more enjoyable place to sit awhile.
The Rotary Park butterfly house is a screened house where it is easy to observe caterpillars and butterflies that are native to Cape Coral. Tours are Monday, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
Sherie Bleiler is charter member of Garden Club of Cape Coral.
How Many Bugs Does it Take to Raise a Brood of Chickadees?
Plants for south Florida butterflies: https://miamiblue.org/plantlist/