Keeping the Ozarks alive and healthy is not complicated. We just have to do our part. Stop planting exotic and invasive species of trees, bushes and wildflowers.

Hello fellow backyard birders.
 
First I want to give a big thanks to the Rolla Daily News for giving me the opportunity to continue being a voice for birds and bird habitat. As many of you know, I am passionate about the Ozarks. I also know that each of us can make a difference if we simply plant native, grow native and bring native Missouri back to our property.  It really is that simple.
 
But like all things in life, we need to take responsibility for our actions. So think before you plant; for if we do not live in harmony with our environment, then we all lose.
 
Native plants are the lynch-pin for the survival of almost all wildlife, they are critically important. They serve as the host for almost every invertebrate; be it caterpillars, beetles, bugs, flies, bees or butterflies. Without these pollinators, we would not have the birds, rabbits, deer or other animals that call the Ozarks home. You see, everything in nature supports everything else in nature. And when we take out one thing, we begin a domino effect that can and will affect everything else in nature.  So now we must ask ourselves a question:  do we want to take nature out of our lives or do we want to support nature? We are the only species that can either protect nature or destroy it. It is your choice.
 
I am sure everyone is familiar with the plight of the Monarch butterfly. This species is in danger for two reasons. First, we have destroyed most of its host plant, the butterfly weed. Second, we are destroying its winter habitat in Mexico. By destroying one plant species, we are also destroying the other pollinators that depend on that plant. It is the same with birds and bees, especially bees. Did you know that there are over 425 native species of ground-nesting, wood-nesting and parasitic bees found in Missouri?
 
The honey bee was introduced over 400 years ago by European pilgrims. Native Americans referred to the honey bee as the white man’s fly. Unlike most native bees, the honey bee is not plant specific for survival; they can collect pollen from almost any plant. But due to our careless use of herbicides and neonicotinoids, we have put them and all of our 425 native species in harm’s way.
 
Keeping the Ozarks alive and healthy is not complicated. We just have to do our part. Stop planting exotic and invasive species of trees, bushes and wildflowers. And only use herbicides and neonicotinoids with the utmost care and concern. Believe me, it is not difficult or complicated, nor is it expensive. Like anything worth doing, it just takes some time and effort.
 
Here is a quote from one of America’s foremost architects: “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
 
Frank Lloyd Wright.
 
What are the rewards, you say?  Within the first year of planting native plants and limiting herbicide use, you will begin to see more butterflies and birds, including the beloved ruby-throated hummingbird. That’s right, hummingbirds. Like all birds that migrate, ruby-throated hummingbirds are insect eaters. They can pick small spiders off their webs, as well as catching flies and other small insects in flight, including mosquitos.  Nectar is important to hummers, as water is important to humans. But without insects for protein, they will not survive and the insects that they and all other creatures need are only produced on native plants. That’s correct; invasive plants are like a barren desert, they add absolutely nothing toward the survival of native wildlife.
 
August will soon be here and the male hummingbird will be heading back south. The females and first year birds will be coming through in late August and September. Yes, they need nectar, so please put up your hummingbird feeders. But remember, they cannot make the trip back home without protein and hummingbird protein comes from insects. That is the fuel that drives their engine. So please do not spray insecticides or herbicides. You will kill native plants, insects and butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other wildlife that call your backyard and Missouri home.
 
One other point:  weeds produce seeds that birds eat. That’s right, just because something is a weed; it does not make it bad. Another thing to remember is that a weed may have been a flower, or will become a flower before the frost. Weeds are like the ugly duckling parable, so don’t be too quick to take the mower to your weed patch. They serve a vital purpose in nature.
 
Remember:  be it your backyard, back forty or back woods, plant native, grow native and bring native Missouri habitat back to your property.