Encouraging Wildlife in your Backyard
Butterfly Garden (Elementary Age)
Did you know that caterpillars will spin a silky case called a cocoon and then transform into butterflies? Some butterflies will also migrate or move across the country, like birds! The monarch butterfly is known for its long moves from Canada to Mexico. Creating butterfly gardens is great ways to help butterflies on their move or just give them something to eat.
To make a butterfly garden, you will need a couple of things. Butterflies love plants like milkweed, marigold, rosemary, and daises. They will be more attracted to larger groups of plants but be careful to not plant nonnative plants to help protect existing plants and animals. Butterflies will also need some shade and water to help them through the desert heat. Having a water dish and nectar feeder will help butterflies too!
Once you plant everything it can take some time before butterflies will start to appear. Once they do, be careful to not touch or disturb them. If you want to go see a bunch of butterflies up close, check out Butterfly Wonderland near Odysea Aquarium.
Plant list: https://cals.arizona.edu/maricopa/garden/html/youth/btrfly.htm
Butterfly Wonderland tickets: https://butterflywonderland.com
Butterflies in Arizona: https://seaba.org/butterflies-seen
Bird Feeders (Middle School Age)
Bird feeders are a super-easy way to attract birds to your yard and help them at the same time. The one we are making is fairly simple in style and super easy. You will need a water bottle, a stick of some kind (cookie/cake pop sticks work great), markers, and birdseed. Take the small empty water bottle and puncture a small hole on the bottle in the middle (have an adult do this so no one gets cut) and use that puncture to cut a small window into the bottle. Then a little below the window, puncture the water bottle and create a small hole for the perch. The hole should be large enough to slide the cookie stick (or whatever stick they are using) into the hole for the perch. Cut a window and a hole on the opposite side of the water bottle so the stick can go all the way through. Then personalize the bird feeder any way that you want to! Markers are easiest but as long as a bird can’t accidentally eat the decorations, have fun with it. When you are done decorating, fill the bottom of the water bottle with birdseed and place the feeder outside for the birds!
There are many different styles of bird feeders that you can use so experiment with different kinds to see which one you like the best!
Bat House (High School Age)
Bats are a valuable asset to the desert landscape and to people. Bats pollinate many different plants but also consume mosquitos that can harm people. Not all bats live in caves; they can live in any sheltered place such as under bridges. Be careful with bats though; they can carry rabies that can be transferred to people. If you see a bat in need of help, do not touch it. Instead call the Liberty Wildlife hotline and a rescue volunteer will come get the bat.
Creating a bat house can be a good way to help bats find shelter especially during the summer. Place your bat house somewhere where it won’t be disturbed by people but also bats won’t disturb people either. Maybe contact your local park association to see if the bat house can be placed in a park. For detailed instructions on how to create a bat house, visit https://www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife/Cover/Build-a-Bat-House.aspx.
If you can’t make a bat house, there are other things you can do to help bats like planting bat-friendly plants or having a water source outside for bats and birds.