April 2024 Treecologist Tribune

Making Space Where Wildlife Thrives

A month ago I was worried that the North Carolina summer heat was in full effect. But luckily we had a series of days with cooler weather and some rain. Overall, the past month has been quite pleasant, which is great for emerging plant life! Rainfall totals measure just over 3 inches across five main events. We could certainly use more “April showers” to boost “May flowers,” and we could also use more healthy soil to hold that water in place. For all the reasons we have discussed in past months, a lack of water availability will continue to be a growing issue in the future.

The big news regarding spring pest emergence is the continued presence of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale (CMBS) and Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), which are both invasive pests. An invasive pest is one that originates from a different ecosystem and has few/no predators to keep its populations under control within this new ecosystem. EAB continues to spread and destroy populations of native ash trees. The best, least-damaging way to stop this invasive pest is using trunk injections that last for two years. We have found that the cost to remove a tree is typically the same amount of money required to protect the tree for 20 years. Hopefully by then we will have found more permanent solutions for stopping EAB.

Regarding CMBS, early research suggested that the only way to stop this invasive pest was by using harmful chemicals (neonicotinoids). We have refused to use those products because they cause widespread harm to other life in in the canopy, pollinators that visit the flowers, and microorganisms within the root ecosystem. Over the past two growing seasons, we have found that we are able to obtain reasonable control over this pest through the use of horticultural and growth regulators, which are far less damaging. This is great news indeed!

Next, I want to answer some questions that you all have sent me. (I love answering your questions; please keep sending them!)

Linda asks “How about a post on how to create a habitat to attract and keep lizards around our homes? We get so excited when we see one outdoors, but I have no idea what would entice it to take up residence and invite its family members to visit.” Stacey writes “The suggestion for a topic might be addressing the culture of viewing organic litter as trash, waste, and a mess needing to be cleaned up or destroyed. This is the culture in my neighborhood and it breaks my heart.” Jennifer asks “I would love to know more about what plants/flowers are good for butterflies, dragonflies and bees. And maybe also hummingbirds. Can anything help attract lightning bugs, attract turtles and frogs etc.?”

All three flow in the same vein: Many of the things we do on our properties actually make it harder for other life to live in our yards. Standard practices and paradigms tell us we should remove leaves, branches, dead plants, etc. Yet many of these are exactly what other types of life need to survive. If we provide food and shelter, life will come. Here are some practical tips for attracting lizards, dragonflies, butterflies, etc.

  • Keep all branches and twigs in a brush pile somewhere on your property. Brush piles provide homes for all sorts of insects, salamanders, lizards, turtles, and others.
  • Keep a pile of logs and chunks of wood somewhere on your property. This is yet another ecosystem for life like beetles, frogs, and chipmunks. Fireflies especially love rotting logs.
  • Compost all grass clippings, food scraps, and so forth. A compost pile is another ecosystem with yet more life. As a bonus, we can use the compost to feed our plants.
  • Leave dead flower stems until the new flowers begin growing. This gives the various bees and other insects that live in these stems during the dormant season time to emerge and re-enter life.
  • If possible, provide a source of water on your property. You can buy bubblers and other systems. Or you can dig out an area to hold water in place long after the rain passes.
  • Leave all leaves where they lay–in beds, natural areas, or a pile somewhere on the property. Many species of moths, butterflies, and native bees need leaves to survive.
  • Plant native understory trees and shrubs under larger trees. More species of plants and plant layers mean a greater variety and abundance of life can live in these spaces.
  • Plant native flowers and grasses (any species is fine so long as they are native) in any unused space on your property that receives at least 5 hours of sunlight. These provide more ecosystems for more variety of life. Planting areas from seed is easier to manage than pulling weeds from around individual plants.

In short, anything that broadens ecosystem variety, adds photosynthesis via native plants, and hoards carbon is likely to produce ideal results for most life. I should add that if we are going to take these steps, we should also avoid causing harm. Examples include:

  • Avoid the use of damaging pesticides, miticides, fungicides, etc., since they will harm life.
  • This most definitely applies to mosquito sprays–they kill life in spades (plus they don’t actually work). Avoid them completely.
  • Turn off lights at night.
  • Keep cats inside always. (The bell collars do not prevent them from killing birds.)
  • Remove invasive plants since they damage ecosystems and reduce their complexity, thus reducing the complexity and abundance of life.

If you want to learn more, we go into great detail on these topics in our new book, From Wasteland to Wonder. You can pre-order it if you are interested. Once the pre-order period ends on April 30, we’ll begin sending out books.

Next month, we’ll chat about ways to keep trees safe during hurricanes. (Spoiler: It’s structural pruning and tree inspections.)

</div> </div>

Start your next project with us!

Get a free quote for tree and shrub care, compost tea, planting, pruning, Piedmont Prairies, Pocket Forests, and more!

Like this article? Pass it on.

Related Articles

Wondering How to Get Rid of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale?
Emerald Ash Borer is in NC!
From Wasteland to Wonder—a Book by Basil Camu
How to Perform Structural Pruning
Video | How to Perform Structural Pruning
Video | How to Perform the 3-Cut Pruning Method
How to Properly Prune Using the 3-Cut Method and The Reduction Cut
April 2024 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Learn How to Save Time and Help Heal Earth in Our New Book
Setting the Stage—A Conversation About Why Change is Necessary
Tree Root Structure
January 2024 Treecologist Tribune
Point of View: 2023 Year in Review at Leaf & Limb
November 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Bats are the Best (and, Unfortunately, They're Endangered)
October 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | The Story of A Seed
September 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Meadows, Thickets, and Pocket Forests: Going Beyond the Traditional Landscaping Model
Strength in Numbers: The Basics of a Pocket Forest
Wondering How to Get Rid of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale?
August 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | From Seeds to Serenity: The Piedmont Prairie Process
10 Native Flowers and Grasses to Plant in a Central North Carolina Piedmont Prairie
July 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Tree Roots Don't Break Pipes
Do Roots Cause Damage? Debunking 3 Common Myths About Tree Roots
Stop Blaming Tree Roots: 5 Ways to Proactively Prevent Property Damage
June 2023 Treecologist Tribune
10 Native Shrubs to Plant in Central North Carolina
Video | How to Manage Invasive Plants
Managing Invasive Plants
May 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Video | Earth Day is Every Day
Plants Make the Planet Go Round
Spring Scavenger Hunt
March Treecologist Tribune
We Are Safe At All Times: Our Approach to Tree-Climbing Safety
Video | Climbing with Archie: How to Climb a Tree Like an Arborist
Video | Day in the Life
February Treecologist Tribune
Why I Recommend Herbicide for Some Ecological Restoration Projects
Point of View: Behind the Scenes at Leaf & Limb
Video | How Hand Pruning Your Shrubs is Faster, Cheaper, and Healthier than using a Hedge Trimmer!
Checklist: Tools and Supplies for Hand Pruning Your Shrubs
Still Using Hedge Trimmers? Hand Pruning is Better for Your Shrubs
January 2023 Treecologist Tribune
Sapling Stories: Bald Cypress
October 2022 Treecologist Tribune
Friend or Foe? Snakes (Yes, Even Copperheads) Are Important to Our Ecosystem.
Project Pando Needs Your Help! How to Collect Native Tree Seeds
Project Pando: Community Seed Collection
Video | Piedmont Prairies: An Alternative to Grass and Lawns Where Beauty and Life Thrive!
August 2022 Treecologist Tribune
Planting a Piedmont Prairie Helped Change the Way I See the World
Piedmont Prairies: The Process & What to Expect
Video | How to Structurally Prune a Tree for Strength
[Case Study] Before and After: Structural Pruning on an Oak Tree
Video | How to Spot a Dead or Dying Tree
Video | Bigger is Not Always Better! Planting Small Can Lead to Big Benefits.
Bigger is Not Better! 3 Reasons Why You Should Plant Trees When They are Smaller
Video | How Invasives Harm Our Local Ecosystem (And the ONE Thing You Can Do to Help)
How Invasive Trees and Shrubs Harm Our Local Ecosystem and One Way You Can Reverse That Damage
10 Invasive Plants to Watch Out for in Central North Carolina
Spring Scavenger Hunt
Fascinators and Flagella: How to Host a Tea Party for Soil Microbes
Compost Tea Makes Soil Healthy and Trees Happy
Video | Tea for Your Trees
Video | Mulch Volcanoes: Deceptively Deadly
Are Mulch Volcanoes Threatening The Trees in Your Neighborhood?
Sapling Stories: Beryl's Beauties
Video | Sheep, Seeds, and Swales: An Update from Project Pando
6 Reasons Why Planting A Native Tree Benefits the Environment and Our Local Ecosystem
Video | Drop That Rake: Save Time and Money by Leaving Your Leaves
Project Pando: Native Seed Drive 2021
Video | How to Plant a Tree: The Definitive Guide to Proper Planting
10 Simple Steps to a Perfectly Planted Tree or Shrub
Video | 3 Ways City Life Stresses Trees (And What You Can Do to Help)
Why is Tree Care Important? Outside of the Forest, Trees Face Unique Challenges.
Emerald Ash Borers are Killing Trees. A Simple Treatment Can Stop Them.
Business Conservationist of the Year
Video | Did you Know? The Secret to Fertilizing your Trees and Shrubs Without Using Chemicals.
Chemical Fertilizers: 3 Surprising Myths and Why You Should Choose Organic Matter Instead
4 Options for Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs the Cheap, Easy, and Healthy Way
Video | 4 Fundamentals of Tree Care
Not Sure How to Care for your Trees? 4 Simple Steps to Happy, Healthy Trees
[Parody] Video | Introducing Timber: the Only Dating App for Trees
Video | Introducing Archie the Arborist: 5 Amazing Tree Facts
We Show That We Care: The History of Project Pando
How to Spot a Pine Borer Infestation
Video | How to Plant a Tree: 5 Questions to Ask Before You Pick Up a Shovel
Drop that shovel! 5 Questions to Ask Before Planting
10 Native Trees to Plant in Central North Carolina
Holiday Gift Guide for That Special Tree in Your Life
Measure What Matters - We are B Corp Certified!
Video | Wood Chips: The Secret Ingredient to Healthy Trees
Top 10 Reasons to Choose Wood Chips Over Other Types of Mulch
Healthy Eating Plate for Trees
Video | Welcome to Project Pando
Video | Structure is Strength - How to Make your Trees More Safe Using Pruning.
Are Your Trees Safe? Prune to Make Them Stronger.
How to Select a Safe Branch for a Tree Swing
Your Dirt is Hungry
Video | Soil is Alive
Recipe: Savory Soil Casserole
How Trees Can Heal Earth & What We Can Do to Help
Earth Day Bingo
Video | How Trees Can Save the Earth
Spring Tree Care Checklist
Spring Scavenger Hunt
Don't Make a Deadly Mistake: Top 10 Questions to Consider Before Pruning
Video | Planning to Prune? Use this simple framework and avoid deadly mistakes.
Video | Rooted by Our Purpose: A New Direction at Leaf & Limb
Why Dead Wood is Good Wood
Video | Want More Birds in your Backyard? Plant These Native Trees.
Best Native Trees for Butterflies
Fall & Winter Tree Care Checklist
Video | Fall Tree Care Checklist: Leave your Leaves, Plant New Trees, and Other Important Tasks
Top 10 Most Surprising Benefits of Trees
How I Learned to Love My Trees
Video | Trees are Critical to Our Future
Think Your Tree is Dead? Look a Little Closer
How to Spot a Dead or Dying Tree
Video | How to Spot the Warning Signs: Dead, Dying or Hazardous Trees
Right Tree, Right Place: What to Plant and Where to Plant it
Video | How To: Choosing the Right Tree for Any Location
Our Favorite Tree Recommendations for Tricky Areas
Using Fertilizer? Think Twice Before You Do.
The #1 Reason Most Soil Tests Don't Work
Friend or Foe: When to Take Action Against Pests
The Insect Apocalypse is Here. How Can You Help?
16 Fascinating Facts About Fungi
Mycorrhizal Fungi: The Unsung Heroes of Tree Care
Case Study: Watch How Soil Improvement Turned this Tree from Sickly to Stately
From Dead Dirt to Healthy Soil in 7 Simple Steps
6 Pruning Mistakes to Avoid
How to Install and Enjoy Your Rain Gauge
Help Save the Monarch Butterflies!
4 Fascinating Facts About Mistletoe
Proper Care for Newly Planted Trees
8 Ways to Accidentally Kill Your Tree When Planting
Drop that Rake! Why Leaving the Leaves is Vital to Your Trees' Health
Save Time This Fall: Leave Your Leaves
Video | How To: The Fundamentals Of Watering
Video | The Fundamentals of Mulch: Proper Care, Installation, and Selection
Too Many Choices: Which Mulch or Weed Barrier Should I Choose?
When Good Mulch Goes Bad
How To: The Fundamentals of Mulch Installation
Five Ways to Spot a Thirsty Tree or Shrub
Soaker Hoses, Irrigation Systems, and Treegators, Oh My!
Drought Resistant Trees
How To: The Fundamentals of Watering
The Joy of Planting Native Trees in Durham, North Carolina
Brightening Up Neighborhoods Across Durham
Changing lives one seed at a time in Durham
Soil Decompaction - An Essential for Good Tree Health
Emerald Ash Borer is in NC!
Cabling & Bracing - Options for Making Your Tree Safer
Tree Care for Crape Myrtles
How to Prevent Tree Damage
Help! My Tree Has a Disease!
Dragon’s Blood Tree
Deep Root Fertilization: Myths & The Truth
The Dangerous Truth About Ghost Insurance Policies
Happy Trees Begin With Proper Planting
Trees & Shrubs Need Check-Ups Too!
How To Protect Your Trees from a Lightning Strike
Mulching: A Cheap, Easy Way to Increase the Health of Your Trees!
Crape Myrtles: A Tale of Love, Murder, and Proper Pruning
The World's Oldest Trees
Help! Insects are Attacking my Trees & Shrubs!
Tree Care: Save Money and Increase Your Property Value
Root Collar Excavation is Critical to Your Tree's Survival!
Tree Risk Assessment: The Key to Safer Trees & Peace of Mind!
10 Tips on How to Choose the Right Tree Service and Avoid Scams
Happy Trees Grow From Healthy Soil
TCIA Accreditation: Empowering You With Confidence
What is Tree Care?
Mulch Volcanoes: the Mt. St. Helens of Tree Problems
Trees Need a Thriving Soil Food Web
Call Leaf & Limb Send an Intercom Message