Jennifer Dirking

Unido: 26.ago.2021 Última actividad: 21.jun.2024

The short version:
I'm fascinated by lepidoptera and the host plants that feed them at the larval stage. I recently learned that native plants are critical to restoring our vanishing caterpillar populations and the baby birds that rely on these caterpillars as their primary food source. I love studying the natural environments near my home and recreating these habitats in my own garden. My particular focus is the top plants for hosting lepidoptera.
By ripping out my useless lawn, growing plants that are native to my zip code, and leaving oak leaves and acorns on the ground, I've boosted biodiversity in my garden dramatically. I highly recommend it!

I'm grateful to the iNaturalist creators and community for fostering collaboration and learning. Kudos!

The longer narrative, with some fun links:
I've had a love for nature from my earliest memory, traveling across the Western United States every summer with my schoolteacher parents. Each year when school let out, we'd hop in our red Chevy pickup truck with an aluminum rowboat on the roof and Shasta trailer hitched to the back. As we crossed the Golden Gate bridge heading north, I felt a great sense of adventure. I had no idea at the time that we lived in, and traveled through, some of the greatest biodiversity hotspots in the world. We visited every kind of ecosystem - from the California coast, to the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington, to the Mojave Desert. I loved learning about the wildlife in each area and carried field guides from the time I could hold a book.
As we drove, thousands of insects, especially butterflies and moths, would get caught in the grille of the truck. It made me sad to see these helpless creatures suffer and die. At the same time, I was fascinated by their diversity when I had a chance to examine them when we stopped.
It was only recently that I noticed that I rarely run into an insect at all, in my car or in my garden. Then I heard a talk by Doug Tallamy, Professor of Entomology at University of Delaware, that was based on his NY Times Bestseller "Nature's Best Hope." He explained about the "insect apocalypse" brought about by pesticides, paving, and planting imported plants instead of natives. His talk is here:
The steep insect decline threatens life as we know it. We're all aware that plants convert the sun's energy into food. But what I didn't know is that caterpillars are the biggest converters of plant material into food for the rest of the food chain. For instance, 96% of terrestrial birds rely on caterpillars as a primary food source for their babies. So a crash in the caterpillar population = a crash in the bird population. Humans are unlikely to survive without pollinators, which are expected to reach the point of no return by 2039.
There is hope! Our local moths and butterflies co-evolved with native plants so that each specializes on certain types of 'host plants' that feed their young. If we revamp our 'dead' yards that are currently filled with useless lawns and inedible imported plants, and instead grow the native plants that feed the most butterflies and moths, we can fight back against insect and bird extinction.
If you live in California, you can find local native plants here:
If you live in other parts of the United States, you can find native plants here:
If you live outside of the U.S., you may find resources here:
You can learn more about Doug Tallamy and his mission to fight back against the insect apocalypse here: His website is here:

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