Go native! Native plants benefit birds, bees, and butterflies

Since the 1970’s we have lost about 30% of our birds and insects. Birds require insects to feed their offspring, and insects require native plants to feed their offspring. Filling our yards with plants adapted to our region will allow wildlife to thrive. Most caterpillars (the food of choice for bird babies) can only live on specific plants (called host plants). And many small bees are specialists, who can use nectar from many flowers but need pollen from specific plants for their larvae.

There are many resources to help gardeners choose. Here are some we’ve found especially useful:

The National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder is organized by zip code. Their database will show choices ranked by the number of species that can use them for host plants.

The National Wildlife Federation also has a listing of Keystone plants by region – these are the superstars of native plants, that act as host plants for many species, with different lists for butterfly and bee species. If you can only add a few plants, here’s the best choices. Ohio is in the Eastern Temperate Region, with its list here.

More about host plants here, and “soft landings” (how to make sure overwintering insects survive). (pdf)