Birds, bees and butterflies in your garden not only mean you are nurturing an environment that supports biodiversity, you are also adding another beautiful thriving little oasis! These creatures are crucial pollinators in our eco-system and every small haven created for them ensures a better future for our green and wildlife. You’ll also be reclaiming urban spaces for Mother Nature’s beauty.
As the earth comes back to life this spring, contribute your own little piece of Eden to the Earth and invite the buzz, whir and tweet of some colourful little guests that will appreciate it as much as you do. The beautiful colours and scents that attract these special creatures are also a treat for your own senses, so follow a few of these tips and you’ll soon have a garden to delight in.
The way to attract these pretty creatures is to make sure your garden has a ready supply of what they love and need. And think variety: the bigger the variety in your garden, the more varied your inhabitants will be.
Planting the right plants can attract anything from 50 to 100 species of birds to your garden. Birds like eating nectar, berries, fruits and seeds, so planting plenty of these delicacies is the way to go. A bird feeder providing a variety of seeds is a sure-fire way to attract some avian friends too, especially in winter when food is scarcer.
Lure the exquisite jewel-like sugarbird with plants such as Aloes, Ericas, Hibiscus, cape honeysuckle, proteas, fuchsias, pincushions, red-hot pokers and watsonias.
Fruit, Berries & Seeds
A biodiverse garden will also attract insects. Butterflies and moths start off as caterpillars, so encouraging these fluttering beauties in their earlier worm-like form will create a juicy supply for our avian feasters. They will also make sure they don’t get out of hand. The ones that survive will soon be fluttering around as a further food source for birds, frogs and lizards.
Some bigger plants or trees in your garden will give birds a safe spot to build their homes. You can provide nesting materials by:
• Leaving twigs that fall from bushes on the ground
• Growing plants with fluffy, soft, silky seeds for lining nests, such as wild rosemary
• A little patch of mud will encourage birds such as swallows and swifts who build their nests from mud
• Leave longish pieces of dried grass in a little accessible spot when you trim longer grass
• A shady area in your garden could provide some soft moss
• Provide an enticement by putting up a birdhouse at a height that is safe from predators, in a spot that isn’t too exposed to the elements.
Birds are great bathers, so a bird bath for them to ruffle about in will definitely go down well, as well as give them a supply of water.
Having birds in your immediate environment is a wonderful way to learn, both for you, and your kiddies if you have some. The sweet chatter of birds is so uplifting and soothing too! Why not get yourself a good bird guide and get to know your neighbours a little better?
Bees are such a precious part of our ecosystem and there has been some concern about their wellbeing over the last few years. It is thought that certain pesticides and mass monoculture farming are playing a key role in weakening their immune systems, causing colony collapse and declining numbers. Loss of habitat and urbanization are also taking their toll. This problem is far more severe in the industrialised northern hemisphere but is starting to gain ground in South Africa too
By making your garden a biodiverse haven you can play your part in keeping the bees thriving as an indispensable part of our ecosystem.
It’s important to make sure that you are not using nasty pesticides in your garden that are known to contain bee-harming chemicals such as neonicotinoids. Read your labels. They usually contain acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, and/or thiamethoxam as active ingredients. Explore greener, healthier pest control options.
Plants That Bees Love
• Bee balm
• Sweet thorn
• Bush willows
• Weeping wattle
• Blanket flowers
• Scabiosa species
• September bush
• Cape may
• White alyssum
• Fruit tree blossoms
• Butterfly bushes
Some More Bee-Loving Tips
• They are especially attracted to purple, violet, blue, blue-green, yellow, ultraviolet and white flowers and prefer scented flowers.
• Plant flowers that bloom at different times of the year to keep the bees well fed year-round.
• Leave some wild meadow-like areas, bees like natural wildness. If you have a lawn, let some wild clover grow on it.
• Some bees live in the earth so they’ll appreciate a little mud to go round.
• A bee bath needs to be shallower than a bird bath – a shallow tray-like bath of water is ideal. You can also put some marbles in a shallow pan and fill it with water – that way the bees will have somewhere to land and drink.
• Provide shelter with rotting vegetation and tree stumps. You can install bee shelters and hives too.
If you want the privilege of these floating jewels in your garden, you’ll need to make peace with a few munching caterpillars, because that’s how butterflies start off. Look at them in a different light – they provide food for things like frogs, birds, lizards, spiders and praying mantis’ and they really only make temporary, repairable inroads into your foliage. To encourage butterflies in your garden means you have to allow for the larval stage too.
Go lightly on pesticide and only use them when really necessary, to give caterpillars a fighting chance – they are already pitted against plenty of natural predators if you are creating a diverse ecosystem on your garden. Toxic pesticides can also get into the plant nectar that adult butterflies drink.
The female butterfly lays her eggs on a host plant and this plant will be the first thing the little caterpillars munch their way through to grow up to be a beautiful butterfly. You need the right kind of indigenous host plants to start the transformation from larvae to butterfly.
Good Host Plants For Butterfly Eggs and Larvae
|• Mackaya bella
• Mona lavender
• Trailing daisies
• Cape forget-me-not
• Setaria megaphylla grass
• Indigenous Jasmines
• Wild mint
• Flowering salvias
• The small honeysuckle tree
|• White Ironwood
• Orange and lemon trees
• Butter Cassia
ADULT BUTTERFLY FOOD
Butterflies like colours ranging from blue to mauve, red, pink or white when it comes to flowers. Some butterflies like rotting fruit such as bananas or pineapple. Leave some fruit from your fruit trees to rot on the ground as food. They like to get some minerals in from pockets of mud too, so a little mud puddle or two is appreciated.
Plants Butterflies Love
|• Cape plumbago
• Sweet thorn
• White iron wood tree
• Wild peach
• Cape honeysuckle
• Pride of De Kaap
|• Rice Flower
• Star flower
• Butterfly bush
• Flowering acacia
• Bottle Brush
• Puzzle bush
• Mint plants
• Sacred basil
• Salvia sages
• Ribbon flower
Some More Butterfly Tips
• Butterflies are coldblooded and like the odd spot where they can sun themselves
• Butterflies are paper-light in winds and breezes, a calm wind and breeze-free area will give them a chance to rest
• If you are one to love the nocturnal version of the butterfly, the mysterious moth, plant some night blooming flowers such as jasmine.
The web of life is so vast and intricate, weave yourself a magical, colourful living tapestry outside your front door and be a part of it!