If we look beyond the birds, we may discover that all kinds of wild life inhabit our back yards: not just squirrels, but bats, snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, toads, and many kinds of beneficial insects as well. Each of these kinds of animals or insects plays an important and desirable role in the environment, and it A Ladybird Beetle (Ladybug)is in our best interest to encourage these kinds of wild animals to take up residence in our back yards. We can learn to peacefully coexist with all these animals and insects by providing the right kinds of food, shelter, and water sources so that they can eat, sleep and raise their young in safety. Then we will reap the benefits of having these wild creatures nearby, and perhaps save a species or two from extinction as well!

Bats play a vital role in insect control, and they have learned to coexist peacefully with humans. Unless they are rabid, bats are not dangerous, and a single bat can eat up to six hundred mosquitoes per hour! Bats do not get entangled in your hair, and if you have screens on your windows, and suitable bat boxes, they will prefer to occupy the boxes rather than adapt to less than ideal situations like houses and attics. Learn what the bats who occupy your area prefer, provide them with their preferred types of houses, and they will reward you by keeping the insect population well under control. In some places, bats have even become a major tourist attraction, so if you are squeamish about bats, it's a good idea to learn about them and get over your fears.

Other animals that do a lot to control insects are anoles and geckos. These lizards eat an incredible amount of nuisance insects that destroy our prized plants and gardens, as well as infest our houses, so we should learn to get along with them. These lizards love to bask in the sun, and take shelter in different kinds of bushes. Anoles are active during the daytime, and eat the insects that come out then; geckos tend to be nocturnal, and eat the insects that are active at night. By providing them with a chemical-free environment and the right kinds of sunning surfaces (geckos will do just fine with the wall of your house), as well as bushes to take shelter in, you can be sure that they are taking care of eating those pesky insects that make our lives miserable.

Box turtles are another species of reptiles that do their part to keep insects under control. You should note that it is illegal and dangerous for the turtle to capture one and move it. The only time you should touch a box turtle is to move one out of danger, and then do not move it far; box turtles are adapted from birth to about a two-mile range and may not survive if moved out of their range. Older box turtles will not eat plants, and exist almost solely on insects. By providing them with sunshine and access to water, you can encourage box turtles to come take up residence naturally in your back yard, and help them establish themselves in your area.

Then there are toads and frogs. Amphibians are fragile, but because they are the bridge between land-dwelling and water-dwelling animals, they play a huge role in maintaining ecosystems. Scientific studies have shown that wherever amphibian populations decline, the ecosystem quickly loses balance. Toads and frogs do not cause warts, and the poisonous kinds of frogs generally do not move into people's yards, but even so, you should not handle any wild animals unless absolutely necessary. Frogs and toads need a source of water in which to lay eggs, so if you have a koi pond or lily pond, that is an ideal environment for them. If you have a koi pond, simply screeen off a small section so that the koi cannot get to it; frog and toad eggs that are laid there will survive (make sure the mesh is small enough that tadpoles cannot get caught in it or swim through it). Toads leave the water, so make sure that they have a good shelter; a toad house with an open bottom, two doors, and a large enough space so that the female toad, who is much larger than the male toad, can get through the door are all they require. Toads and frogs exist solely on insects, so the more you can attract to your yard, the less you will be bothered by insects!

Another kind of wildlife that is extremely beneficial is snakes. Most snakes are not only harmless, but actively beneficial. It will pay you to learn the kinds of poisonous snakes that are in your area, and call a professional to deal with them, but the other kinds of snakes will eat insects and even mice and rats, thus preventing damage to your house, yard, garden, and family. Snakes, like all animals, need a food source, water, and shelter. And like lizards, they enjoy a good bask in the sun. Remember, you should leave snakes alone: even the non-poisonous ones can bite you. If you have any questions about a snake in your yard, call the local authorities and talk to them. Never handle a snake unless you are sure it is safe, and you know how to control the snake.

Even which plants you place next to each other will work to control insects. Some plants actually repel insects, and are best planted to the species that the insects prey upon.

Finally, there are all kinds of insects that you actually want in your yard. Ladybird beetles (ladybugs), dragonflies, and butterflies all make excellent additions to your yard. Butterflies pollinate flowers, and ladybird beetles and dragonflies eat pest insects (dragonfly nymphs consume astonishing amounts of mosquito larvae and stay in the nymph stage for up to five years). They are beautiful and fun to watch, as well!

For any of these kinds of wild life, remember that they exist by eating insects. If you use insecticides, they will not have anything to eat. And if the insects survive, the animals will eat the insects and the toxins from the insecticide will build up in their bodies and poison them. In addition, you will want to avoid weed killers or herbicides, because the plants are where these animals sleep and rest, as well as raise their young. The amount of toxins they will absorb through their skins will build up and kill the animals, and then your back yard will be a much poorer place for it!

The Wildlife Gardener's Guide (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide)
Amazon Price: $9.95 $2.30 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 26, 2014)
An excellent beginner's book on understanding something about the miniature ecosystem that is anyone's yard.