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MARS Moments: Cherish the hidden world in your garden

Jane Sproull Thomson

Jane Sproull Thomson

Special to Black Press

Did you know that hummingbirds eat spiders?

They also raid spider webs to use it as adhesive in their nests. Hatchlings are fed exclusively on bugs, a vital part of the hummer’s diet with protein and other nutrients they can’t get from nectar. (A reminder that hummers and other birds are now nesting – no more hedge-trimming from now until next fall, please!)

If you enjoy watching birds in your garden, you might consider a few radical ideas this season. Begin by attracting bird food: namely, insects, arachnids, and myriapods! While you may hate the caterpillars on your ornamental trees, chickadees and bushtits absolutely love them.

A garden without many insects is a garden without birds. The good news is that a messy garden is a bird paradise because it has lots of hidey-holes for their protein meals. While you may find a few more holes in your lettuce leaves, eventually the bugs will attract lots of predators, and a balance will be achieved without the use of pesticides: a win for everybody.

Speaking of ornamentals: while we love Japanese maples, lilacs and honeysuckles, most non-native species attract few insects. Baby birds born into a non-native-dominated garden area may not survive because there is just not enough food for them.

Think of all the time and money you could save on feeders and seed with this healthier, toxin-free garden. I’ve been adding some of the Island’s native plants to my backyard and I especially love the flowering currants and perennial groundcovers that take care of themselves. To find the best options for your situation, search for the Ecoregional Planting Guide for a list of native plants specific to Eastern Vancouver Island, or use this link:

Bring the kids into your insect-building project with some of the nature-themed books available at the Mountainaire Avian Rescuse Society Visitor Centre (3115 Williams Beach Road, Merville) and its gift shop. With the lovely spring weather arriving, guided tours are in full swing at MARS, but we are in urgent need of guides to keep up with the demand. If you can spare a few hours each week, MARS needs you! Check out all our great volunteer options at

Jane Sproull Thomson is a volunteer at the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society