Birds, Bees, & Wild Things
by Jason Haupt, Extension Natural Resources - University of Illinois
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Attracting wildlife to your yard is something in which everyone seems to be interested. But knowing how to do this is what many people lack. As you think about attracting wildlife to your yard, the first step is to start looking at your yard as a habitat. All habitats have four elements: water, shelter, food, and space.
When you are looking to attract butterflies and other pollinators to your yard, you need to think about providing for all stages in the life of the insects that you want to attract. Insects have multiple life stages, and each stage has a different food requirement. Milkweed is one of the most common plants chosen to attract butterflies, Monarchs specifically, but Milkweed only provides for one of the life stages of the Monarch’s life cycle. To attract and keep the butterflies coming to your yard, you need to provide food for the larval stage (caterpillar), the pupa (chrysalis), and the adult (butterfly) stages. Each stage has specific requirements.
Pollinators play a significant role in keeping habitats healthy and diverse. They are important to agriculture pollinating crops and help in ensuring a good healthy yield. When most people think of pollinators, their first thought is honeybees. However, there are so many more bees than just honey- bees (which are non-native) and more than 3,500 species of native bees in the United States with 228 of them found in Illinois. Without bees, much of the produce that you love to have in the summer would not be available in the quantities or the quality that you love. Peppers, tomatoes, many root vegetables, and many fruits need bees to pollinate and produce healthy produce. Bees ensure that the flowers properly pollinate and produce healthy and abundant fruits, seeds, and vegetables. Research has also shown that an increased native bee population also makes honeybees produce more honey increasing the yield of local honey.