You wouldn’t be thrilled if someone took away 75% of your meal. However, suppose you plant intrusive butterfly bushes and other nectar-only plants in your yard. You’re doing the same to local birds and butterflies in that case.
Regardless of how large or small your property is, wildlife biologist Dr. David McKay encourages you to consider it as an integral part of the local ecosystem. Even the gorgeous, seemingly innocuous butterfly bush impacts the local food chain if you incorporate it in your yard.
Professor and head of entomology and animal ecology at the University of Delaware, Doug Tallamy, Ph.D., has revealed three painful realities about butterfly bushes and why you should avoid growing them in your garden.
The Butterfly Bush isn’t going to stay in your garden
An invasive plant like a butterfly bush may wreak havoc by displacing native species that have thrived in your area for generations. This Asian species rapidly takes up space traditionally occupied by native North American species. The full title for butterfly bush, Buddleja davidii, has particular characteristics that make it aggressive in most settings.
It’s a common mantra that “it’s invasive here, but not there,” says Tallamy. “Even if it’s a problem in many regions of the country, what matters most is that the plant has the potential to become a problem virtually anyplace. Chances are, if it isn’t in some area, it will be at some point.”
The plants have spread to critical ecosystems and protected places outside people’s back yards. Much evidence points to the destructive nature of butterfly bush infestations into animal habitats.
People who claim that the butterfly bush does not move are in denial. The butterfly bush just won’t stay in the spot where we planted it.
The Butterfly Bush isn’t a big help for butterflies
No one can disagree that the long, slender tufts of flowers on butterfly bushes are attractive. And nectar is plentiful, as is the case with many flowering plants. However, suppose it is the only species of plant you grow for butterflies. In that case, Tallamy advises that you will no longer have any butterflies in your area.
To breed, these insects need the presence of a suitable host plant. Their larval progeny are required to feed on the leaves of native plants such as butterfly weed, other milkweeds, joe-pye weed, and oak trees to survive.
Tallamy explains that “people rationalize their apparent need for butterfly bush because they believe it benefits butterflies. In the end, “all they truly want is a beautiful plant for their yard.”
Food webs collapse due to Butterfly Bushes
Non-native vegetation like butterfly bush can harm butterflies and birds in your area by making it more difficult for them to live in your yard.
Chickadees, for example, require vegetation that can sustain the 6,000-9,000 caterpillars the birds need to feed their young for the 16 days they spend in the nest.
It’s impossible to sustain the plant-chickadee-caterpillar feeding chain without it, says Tallamy. “You’re eliminating at least 75% of the food that supports the biodiversity out there if you plant butterfly bush instead of native [species].”
And these creatures are in desperate need of assistance.
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