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How to Attract Beneficial Wildlife to Your Garden

How to Attract Beneficial Wildlife to Your Garden


Spring is coming and you’re excited to plan next year’s garden.  We all love to get our hands in the soil and plant our own tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, strawberries, and other fresh fruits and vegetables.  But nothing’s more frustrating than watching your new crop being eaten by certain uninvited visitors known as “garden pests.” 

Animal pests like snails, slugs, caterpillars, aphids, mice, mealy bugs, etc. can pose a challenge to gardeners, especially those of us who’d rather not use toxic pesticides.  But there are ways to attract some hungry predators into your garden that can keep the pest population under control naturally.  Here are a few simple ways you can attract beneficial wildlife to your garden.



Few animals are as voracious when it comes to eating insects as bats.  They can gulp down as many as 1,000 per hour, often right out of the air as they fly around, but they also snatch up things like caterpillars from leaves.  They also pollinate flowers like bees do, and their droppings, called guano, makes great fertilizer.

Sounds good, right?  So how can you attract bats to your backyard (and help save some endangered species of bats at the same time)?  Install a bat house!  Bat houses are wooden structures that provide narrow, tight spaces that bats like.  If you are handy, you can build your own bat house.  The National Wildlife Federation has great step-by-step instructions for constructing a bat house.



Not into carpentry?  No problem, many garden supply stores, websites, and catalogs sell pre-made bat houses.  There’s a great variety of sizes, shapes and prices available.  A small, simple one can be as little as $10.00, or you can go crazy and get a fancy bat “condo” if you are willing to spend more.  If you’re lucky, you may even attract a nesting mom looking for a place to raise her babies.



Like bats, toads are very enthusiastic eaters of insect pests.  Experts say that a single toad can eat up to 10,000 insects over the course of just one season, and that includes flying insects and their larvae.  If you have a pond or other water feature in your yard, you’ve already got one of the most important toad attractors.  They are drawn to water, and of course tadpoles need water to survive.  Check out this website to learn more about creating a pond.

Toads also need some type of shelter near the water, especially if you live in an area where the winters are very cold.  You can mound up some simple garden debris like leaves and twigs to provide a place for your garden toads to huddle under in the cold weather. 



You can also use a pre-made toad house, adorably known as a toad abode!  Toad abodes are usually made out of ceramic, so a simple upside down flower pot (with a small area of entry) placed over a bit of ground with soft earth for digging will do the trick.  Many garden supply vendors also sell ridiculously cute toad abodes…like this one!



How cool would it be to have your very own backyard owls?  Owls eat large insects, but they also prey on rodents like mice, rats, and voles…which can be major garden pests.  Different geographic areas are home to different species of owl, so do your homework to find out which owls live in your area.  Then you can construct or buy an owl nesting box made for the particular species of owl in your neighborhood.

Common owls that are attracted to nesting boxes include barn and screech owls.  Before you install an owl box, make sure that you and your neighbors don’t use rodent poison for at least 3 months prior.  Some owls prefer open areas and some prefer wooded areas, so again, do your homework before placing a box.



There are lots of great owl conservation websites with owl nesting box plans available if you want to build your own.  Click here for step-by-step instructions to build your own box.  Not up to the task?  You can buy a pre-made box for the kind of owls in your area.  Barn owl boxes can be quite large, but screech owl boxes are smaller.  Here’s a cute screech owl box that would look great in any garden!



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