Provide for Wildlife

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.

In the Spotlight: Butterflies

swallowtail butterfly

What are butteflies looking for? Butterflies are looking for two things when they enter a garden: nectar, the food that adult butterflies need, and; host plants, the place where the female will lay her eggs and the food that caterpillars need. Both are necessary to create a successful butterfly garden.

orange and white butterfly

Butterflies love sun. Both butterflies, and the plants they prefer, like bright sunny areas protected from high winds. As you begin to plan your butterfly garden look for areas around your yard that have at least 6 hours of sun each day. (image: USDA via Flickr)

swallowtail butterfly

Protect the butterflies. The use of insecticides will kill many butterflies and their caterpillars. If a pest problem develops  in your butterfly garden, try using biological controls, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and preying mantids as a first line of defense.

Provide For Wildlife Action Checklist:

  1. Learn to identify five kinds of wildlife that live in your yard.
  2. Plant native plants to provide wildlife habitat.
  3. Provide wildlife shelters such as a bat or birdhouse.
  4. Keep natural wildlife shelters in your yard that may include woodpiles and older trees. Bugs and insects are an important food source for other wildlife.
  5. Provide a water source, such as a birdbath or a pond.
  6. Establish a butterfly garden by providing nectar and host plants for butterflies and beneficial insects.
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Did you know?

All wildlife require food, water, cover and space to survive and reproduce.

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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.

Additional Resources:

Wildlife Foods

Backyard Wildlife Enhancement

Clemson Wildlife

Habitat Requirements for Wildlife: Food, Water, Cover and Space

Butterfly Gardening

South Carolina Master Naturalist