Insects are at the heart of the food web, the primary way that nature converts plant protoplasm into animal life. Overall, plants can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions. However, insects tend to be specialists, feeding and pollinating a narrow spectrum of plant life, often times just a single species. In fact, 90% of plant eatting insects can develop and reproduce only on the plants with which they share an evolutionary history. This is why when you see the decline of one species; it's not uncommon to see the decline of another. One of the best examples of this is the Monarch butterfly and milkweed.
Another concern, is as land is continuously converted from "wild" to "farmed" and then "farmed" to "subdivision" or "apartment complex", there is not enough "wild" land to support that important ecosystem. As such, it's imperative to look at every open space available and think about how to return that land to a "wild" state. Because much of the earth's available land is either used for farming, or in wealthy nations, for areas like lawns, sterile, unproductive landscapes are created.
Because most people own little to no land, one way to help is to create habitats that are sustainable and can act as a networked ecosystem. Tbe idea is to reduce the distance that creatures must travel for food. This land can be created from any area such a lawn, manicured park areas, golf courses and other rereational areas. Douglas Tallamy, an entomologist at the University of Delware, offers some suggestions to help return manicured spaces back to the wild.
- Shrink your lawn. Start by halving the area devoted to your lawn - thereby reducing water pseticide and fertilizer use. Better yet, if you don't need a lawn, don't have one. Use native grasses and enjoy their beauty in lieu of traditional lawn grasses. Incorporate plants that sustain more animal life.
- Remove invasive plants. Introduced plants sustain less animal diversity than natives do. Even worse, many exotics crowd out indigenous plants. Also, be sure to note that what is invasive in one area, may not be in another due to climatic conditions.
- Create no-mow zones - whether in lawns or fields. Native catepillars drop from a tree's canopy to the ground to complete their life cycle. Place mulch or a native ground cover around trees. Birds, moths and butterflies will benefit.
- Eliminate lighting where possible and equip remaining outdoor lights with motion sensors. As people live closer together and become more fearful, they are also leaving lights on throughout the night. Not only is the light pollution unhealthy for humans, white lights blazing all night can distrub animal behavior. LED devices use less energy and yellowlights attract fewer insects. Lights are also extremely detrimental to bird migration. Be particularly vigilant if you live in a migration path.
- Plant keystone species. Among native plants, some contribute more to the foodweb than others. Native oak, cherry, cottonwood, willow and birch are some of the best north American tree choices.
- Welcome pollinators. Goldenrod, native willows, sunflowers, evening primrose, and violets support native bees. Even cover crops such as clover and dandelions help signficantly.
- Fight mosquitoes with bacteria. Inexpensive packets containing Bacillus thuringiensis can be placed in drains and other wt sites where mosquitoes hatch. Unlike pesticide sprays, the bateria only inhibits mosquitoes, but not other insects.
- Avoid harsh chemicals. Dig up or use various combinations of eco-friendly products to help eliminate weeds. A list of organic pest and plant control options are available in this site's gardening section.