Getting Connected 3: Birds and Spiders

As I said last time, I’m pretty much terrified of spiders. I knew that they were important in keeping the bug population down, but it wasn’t until my mom got her garden that it hit me. They really are important.

Squash beetles and cucumber beetles are destroying squash and cucumber plants in my mom’s beloved garden. I’d like to point out that my mom hasn’t used any pesticides since she got her garden. She uses other plants and nature’s method aka the natural ecosystem to keep pests in check. She got several vegetables from those plants before they died, but they still died before their time so it’s still irritating and she would appreciate it if it would stop happening.  Spiders she has noticed, she’s slightly unnerved by them too, seem to play a role in keeping plant life suckers at bay.

Because they use a web to catch their prey, spiders aren’t too choosy about what they eat, so they end up getting some of the good guys too.

Surprisingly I couldn’t find that much information about their role in the ecosystem that was a huge book or dissertation of some sort.  Or wikipedia, which certainly isn’t a source to be relied on. So with that being the case I’ll add birds to this post.

Birds are great and I totally love the hummingbird feeder that I made. We watch the hummingbirds while we eat and we have the most enjoyable time. If birds serve no other ecological purpose then I think they should get a fair amount of credit for bring delight into the world. How much worse off would humanity be if we didn’t have these amazing creatures to keep some people’s soul so harmonious? How much lonelier would we feel?

In any case luckily I don’t have to listen people’s opinions on how illogical that is because they do, in fact, have practical purposes.

Like most smaller creatures, birds are sensitive to their environment and therefore, help us to know when there is a problem. They help pollinate, control insect and rodent populations the natural way. Birds eat up to 98% of budworms and up to 40% of all non-outbreak insect species in eastern forests. These services have been valued at as much as $5000/year/square mile of forest (Robinson, 1997). Research in agricultural settings confirms what many farmers already know-birds help control agricultural pests. In orchards, birds seek out and destroy up to 98% of over-wintering codling moth larvae, a major pest of apples worldwide.

On farms, birds are especially important. Cow manure contains seven essential enzymes necessary for bird digestion. On a real farm, a natural farm (the only natural thing we can do nowadays because we bred chickens and cows so much they became dependent on humans and most would die without us) the relationship between birds and herbivores, in this case chickens and cows, is essential because birds eat bugs. Bugs and parasites that come to eat the manure, are already in the manure and that bother the cows themselves.

Birds feed on other birds as is usually the case with predators. Reptiles, large cats if in the wild and small cats in community type settings.

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