The presentation at the Bird Life Forum meeting (at WESSA, Howick) again started by explaining the role that insects play in nature, but then looked more closely at who else in the food chain relies on insects.
It turns out insects are on the menus of the vast majority of other animals. But even pure herbivores rely on insects indirectly, because around 80% of plants need insects to pollinate them!
Insects and plants are locked into a close partnership. Together they form the bedrock of every ecosystem outside of the oceans. This world cannot exist without insects.
The problem is, often we expect it to…
Insects eat indigenous plants – just about only. By allowing our land and gardens to be overgrown by exotic plants, we deny insects their food. No insect food means no insects, which means no food for other animals. In some places the food web has as good as collapsed.
The solution is to get rid of the aliens and to plant indigenous trees. Trees are the key: their size and biomass provide insects with a banquet of suitable food. More food means more insects, which means more birds, reptiles and other insect eaters.
Now we have the beginnings of a healthy ecosystem, where many species co-exist and keep each other in check. Suddenly one can plant all those lovely indigenous flowers and bushes, that only get eaten if one tries to plant them in an otherwise exotic garden. It all starts with trees!
Several members from the audience said afterwards they planned to go home and take a fresh look at their own gardens. Yay – mission accomplished!