Native Plants and Insects: A Vital Connection

The sheer number of insects on this planet is mind-blowing. It is important to know that this is not some sort of mistake of nature. Rather, it is part of a grand design of a beautiful system that has created this earth and provided for all of its earthlings. Every living creature on this planet plays a role in this system even though we may not know what it is or understand it.
Did you know that insects play a vital role in our ecosystem? They are responsible for such tasks as soil turning and aeration, pest control, waste elimination, pollination and are the main food source for many animals. If you consider the food source alone and think of the food chain as a giant pyramid, then insects would be at one of the lower levels…part of the broad base that is essential for building the pyramid.
What is the connection between our gardens and insects? Our native insects generally do not or cannot use non-native plants as a food source. The non-native plants in our gardens did not evolve with the insects that are there. The chemical make-up of the plant (leaves, stems) are not tasty or palatable to the millions of insects that we live with everyday. Our overly tidy, urban and suburban gardens made up largely of non-native species are starving the wildlife.
Bravo! you say. No pests to damage my plants! But be very careful what you wish for. Our very existence depends upon this vast population of insects. As smart as we are, we have yet to find a way to do the important tasks of insects. Why do you think the world is starting to lament the demise of the bee? Why are our farmers freaked out about the decline in numbers of pollinators that they absolutely depend upon? I am not exaggerating when I say that a world without insects would be a world without any other creatures. The food chain would completely collapse. And if we did survive, we would be buried in waste.
What do we get when our gardens are hosts to densely planted natives? For starters…incredible beauty and life and good health. Balance is a thing of beauty, and when we, as gardeners and homeowners, recognize the importance of our landscapes and gardens to support all wildlife, then we play a vital role in the balance of nature.
Oh, and by the way, the pest insects that have given all the other guys a bad reputation make up less than 2% of the insects in our gardens. Isn’t that always the case? One bad apple spoils the bunch…Our native insects absolutely require native plants to thrive.

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5 of 8 comments
  • Carole Carole on Jan 09, 2015
    We all need to think about the balance of nature before we squash bugs or spray insects in the garden. Great post!

    • See 1 previous
    • Carole Carole on Jan 09, 2015
      @Julie @ Southern Wild Design My husband does that for flies, cockroaches, spiders, beetles, grasshoppers and so on. I have learned to tolerate the huge huntsman spiders that sit high up on the wall. They come in to shelter from bad weather and the females come in to lay their eggs. If they don't come down off the wall they are welcome to stay. They hunt at night (they don't build webs, they are as big as a small hand) and when you get up the next day - they are in a different spot. They don't bother me, and I don't bother them!

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Jan 09, 2015
    I want a garden that teems with life, of all kinds. The more insects you have, the better chance they will keep the few bad ones in check.

    • @Douglas Hunt Me too, @Douglas Hunt! I have gardened for years and years without the help of chemicals. Nature is mighty powerful in keeping everything in check! Besides...bugs are very interesting once you get to know a few!