So at the end of January, a mere coupla months ago, I made a goal to try to find and ID fifty new species in my wildlife garden. It’s part of my ongoing interest (read: obsession) with biodiversity. It’s also, in truth, part of how I measure success–if my garden is working, it should be bringing in lots of species, right? And if I’m paying close attention, I should be able to find at least some of them.
The first couple of months in my wildlife garden was dead as a doornail. I got an unusual bird during a warm snap in January, the Blue-Headed Vireo (probably pushed east by the icy weather throughout the middle south) and managed to ID a Smilax that was trying to eat one of my camellias. I was starting to get worried about the slow pace of progress.
And then, finally, it warmed up.
And in a month and some change, I logged over fifty new species in my wildlife garden, mostly by turning on the porch light.
That was fast.
We started with the Blue Headed Vireo and ended with the Large Necklace Moth. The moths, in particular, were cooperative. In late March, I could literally flip on the porch light, take a dozen photos, and be confident of a dozen new species for the list.
The final total included:
1 weevil (the Marbled Fungus Weevil!)
Y’know, I have no idea what to think about this. I was expecting it to be harder.
I suppose the lesson here is that if you’re willing to get out there with a cell phone camera and take blurry photos of bugs and risk june bugs flying at you (the absolute WORST part of this process) there are an extraordinary number of things living in the garden.
It’s not that mine is any more diverse than anyone else’s, I expect–I have the advantage of a sizable mixed wood around my garden, which probably helps, but so do many gardeners–it’s mostly that I’m looking. Various studies (the one I’m thinking of was the BUGS project in Britain, documented in the book No Nettles Required: The Reassuring Truth About Wildlife Gardening) have found that gardens are incredibly diverse places if you just get down and look.
The other thing I learned is that moths are kind of addictive. Even knowing that I’d made the goal, I was out with a camera the next night, going “Eeee! I haven’t seen YOU before!”
So I sat down with my little spreadsheet and worked out that I have, over the last few years, logged 279 species in the garden. I suppose my next goal is to make 300 total, which, at the current rate of progress, I should probably manage by the end of this blog post.
There are a lot of things I wish everyone would do in the world, don’t get me wrong. Most of them have nothing to do with gardening. But I do think it would be awesome if wildlife gardeners would keep an eye out for moths, and try to identify the ones that come around. For a couple of minutes a week, you get a rare and peculiar thrill.
Monarchs aside, most moths aren’t traveling all that far. These are bugs that you–you, with your wildlife garden and your plants and those of your immediate vicinity–have fed and housed and given all the necessary stuff of life. And how cool is that?
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