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We garden for many reasons, including our love of watching plants grow, the health benefits of being active in the outdoors, and our desire to beautify our homes and communities. We can also garden to be stewards of the land and to better coexist with our local ecology. With more than 600 species of animals, South Carolina is one of the most biologically diverse states in the Southeast, but many of our wildlife (songbirds, butterflies, frogs, bees, etc.) are becoming increasingly threatened due to loss of habitat. The home gardener can help support biodiversity by providing some of life's essentials: food, water, shelter and space.
Who doesn't enjoy watching butterflies? You can attract butterflies to your yard by including nectar plants and host plants. A host plant is a place for an adult butterfly to lay eggs. When the caterpillars hatch from the eggs, they are able to feed on the leaves of the plant. Some butterflies use a variety of host plants while others are very specific. Monarch butterflies seem to feed exclusively on milkweed species in the genus Asclepias. You can help monarchs by planting native milkweed in your yard.
Pictured below is a monarch caterpillar on butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa).
All wildlife require food, water, cover and space to survive and reproduce.
Bats are increasing in popularity as a desired backyard visitor. Bats are important in nature and can consume up to 500 insects in an hour, including mosquitoes! The actual health hazard to humans is small, since very few bats actually carry rabies. Consider providing roosting areas for bats to increase their populations in your yard.