In new book, University of Delaware professor says people are 'Nature's Best Hope'

Molly Daly
January 25, 2020 - 4:00 am
An oak tree.

Courtesy of Doug Tallamy

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A University of Delaware professor's first book, "Bringing Nature Home," focused on a the crisis facing our native wildlife, whose numbers are in decline in part because the plants they evolved with are disappearing. His new book aims to inspire a grassroots solution to the problem. 

In "Nature's Best Hope," Doug Tallamy makes the case for do-it-yourself habitat restoration, replacing the common, often invasive plants that dominate our yards with natives that feed the bugs that feed the birds.  

"Caterpillars are the driving force of our food webs, so when you see a caterpillar on your plant, that's a wonderful thing," he explained. 

Ninety-six percent of songbird species need insects, not seed, to feed their young.

"Your plants are your bird feeders. This is not rocket science: everything eats, everything needs to eat, and we need to provide the food," Tallamy said. 

He suggests you start by reducing by half the most high-maintenance and environmentally useless part of the yard: the lawn. 

"And the easiest way to do that is to plant trees, and the best trees to plant in this area are oaks," he said.

Tallamy says oaks are the most powerful plants we can put in our landscapes because they support 557 species caterpillars.

"So, 557 species of bird food. Think of it that way," he said. 

Tallamy says if you want a wildlife-friendly yard, close your ears to the mosquito control siren song.

"When he says 'this only kills mosquitoes' — not so. It kills all the insects it encounters," he said.

That means butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. 

"If we lost our pollinators, we'd lose 80 to 90 percent of the plants on the planet, and that is not an option. Where do you need pollinators? Everywhere!"

So whether you have a several acres or a tiny plot to work with, "Your efforts count, much more than you think they do," he added.