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Pest Control – Why You Should Be Attracting Birds To Visit Your Garden - by Jonathan Yaakobi

Birds should be considered principle allies of the gardener, in his or her efforts to control pest insects that damage the garden plants. Put simply, the more birds that visit the garden, either as permanent residents, or as temporary sojourners on their migratory path, the less the infestations of pest organisms.

It has been estimated that a bird and her mate, that nest twice a year, rearing about 10 chicks, consume the astonishing quantity of some 75 kg (150 pounds) of insects, including aphids, eggs, and caterpillars. This translates numerically into millions of insects. Of course, not all birds are primarily insectivores, but most species prey on insects at those times of the year when additional sources of protein are required.

Birds will not entirely eradicate pest insects from the garden. Actually, it is undesirable that they do so, because eradication is not the aim of intelligent pest management. Instead, the goal of the gardener should be to limit the population of pest and disease organisms to the point that the damage they inflict is tolerable.

There are two main reasons why this seemingly modest approach to pest control is the more generally accepted one today, as opposed to the more conventional approach based on the use of pesticides. Firstly, it is impossible to eliminate the insects for long. Applying pesticides is always short term, as many insect species produce over 20 generations in a year.

Meanwhile, the pesticides may eliminate predatory and parasitic insects that themselves control the pest populations. Furthermore, birds and other wildlife escape from an environment swimming in pesticides, resulting in less restraint on the pests in the future generations. Conversely, while there are a number of active steps to attract birds to the garden, such as providing food, and water for drinking and bathing, the most important method is to desist from applying pesticides, other than in the most extreme circumstances. It is best therefore not to see insects as enemies, but rather as a vital source of food for birds.

It could be argued that some birds themselves could be considered pests. In fact, there is hardly a species at all which directly damages plants. Even the woodpecker is only looking for bark insects and actually helps to reduce the numbers of these damaging pests.

The problem surrounds fruit trees and other crop plants, which some birds may devour at certain times of the year. This however, is not a good reason for discouraging birds to visit the garden. The answer is to protect the fruit by such means as netting or preferably by using decoy plants.

For this reason, as large a number and variety as possible of fruit bearing plants should be incorporated into the garden scheme. The idea is not to provide fruit for humans, but instead for the birds, thereby saving a good deal of the desirable fruit from being nibbled at by the birds. Examples include species of hackberry, juniper, oak, berberis, cotoneaster, pyracantha, viburnum and many more.

 



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Jonathan Ya'akobi

Your Personal Gardening Coach
 



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