Q: I’ve always lived in an apartment but now I have a house. What can I do to attract wildlife to my landscape, such things as butterflies and birds?
Answer: Did you know that in the United States, Florida has the third-most diverse wildlife population? Increasing urban development, especially in coastal communities, continues to destroy our native wildlife habitats. We can make a difference by using a diversity of plant materials and creating natural corridors of plants that connect to bordering properties, allowing animals to travel from one natural area to another.
The needs of wildlife are the same as ours: shelter, food and water. All can easily be incorporated into your landscape. Shelter is provided by the vertical layering of your landscape plants. By using low-growing plants such as groundcovers, shrubs and trees, you can create a safe place for birds and animals to hide, rest and nest. Bird and bat houses are also a plus.
Great food sources for wildlife include plants that produce berries, fleshy fruits, nuts and acorns. Just be willing to have your seed-bearing fruit, foliage and flowers consumed by birds, larval butterflies or caterpillars, etc.
Water can be easily provided in a birdbath that catches rainwater. By regularly changing the water, mosquito breeding and bacterial contamination can be prevented.
Managing pets is important in attracting wildlife. Allowing cats and dogs free reign will significantly decrease the likelihood of attracting birds and other wildlife whose preservation instincts will relocate them to areas that provide more security and serenity.
It’s important to decrease the amount of insecticides you broadcast in your landscape. Birds and other animals that consume chemical-affected insects can become poisoned by some chemicals. By killing the bad bugs, which are less than a 10th of one percent, you also kill the good bugs, which means we have to take on the work the good bugs would have performed. Insects are an important source of food for birds.
For information on which plants attract birds, butterflies and hummingbirds, you can view a copy of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design at the University of Florida website: http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/FYN_Plant _Selection_Guide_v090110.pdf.
Lynn Barber is the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods agent at Hillsborough Extension.. Reach her at BarberL@hillsboroughcounty.org.