Insects and animals (7m 12s)
”There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” – Buckminster Fuller
The Principle for the Insects and Animals chapter is to raise beneficial insects and healthy animals.
Plants have one foot. They’re stationary. They spend their entire life in one place. Creatures have two feet. They walk around and explore. Or they fly.
Plants have the soil food web. Creatures have the jungle, a less evolved, lesser-organized version of the soil food web. In all relative sense, it is a greater challenge to stay alive when you are mobile.
For this reason, it’s relatively easy to attract creatures, like animals and insects, to your site – provide them food, water and a home. They will come.
What are insects?
With between six and ten million living species, insects represent about 90% of the animal life forms on earth. Insects can be pests or provide several benefits to your site:
They pollinate plants
Provide food for other creatures
And they eat parasitic aphids, mites and other unwanted pests
Beneficial insects include bees, ants, butterflies, beetles, dragonflies, termites, cockroaches, mayflies, cicadas, hoppers, wasps, flies and moths, among many others.
Okay, so insects need water, food and a home:
– To provide water, ponds or any other kind of water body, preferably oxygenated water is good.
– For food, insects pollinate flowers. “Insect attractor or repellent” plants provide plenty of food. Here’s a list of companion plants to attract beneficial insects to your site.
– Then build them a house. We’ll talk about two kinds of insect homes here: An insect hotel and a bee box, for bees.
An insect hotel is a structure designed for insects to hibernate, lay eggs, sleep or find security from predators. You can use old shelving planks, drink bottles, palettes, pipes. An insect hotel is a fancy long-term, dry compost pile.
A few notes to building an insect hotel. Insect hotel design notes
- Install near flowering herbs, wild flowers, garden, shrubs and trees
- Build in full sun
- Keep dry, protected from wind and rain
- Sand the exterior – The entrance must be smooth enough so that their delicate bodies don’t get damaged when landing.
Types of beneficial insects and how to attract them
Here are ways to attract different insects by preparing different “rooms” in your hotel:
- Ladybugs and hoverflies – Bundle twigs together in an open-facing wooden box.
- Solitary bees – Bundle bamboo or reeds together in a tin can. The bamboo must be cut to allow entry for the insects. You can also add elderberry, rose or blackberry shoots to the bundle. The marrow of these plants serves as an additional food source.
- Isopods – Stack adobe bricks, leave small gaps
- Solitary bees, bumblebees and some beneficial wasps – Drill holes in a log, between ½ – 2cm (.2 – .4cm) apart, ranging in width and depth
- Butterflies – Cut vertical slits in wood
- Earwigs – Hang aterracotta flowerpot upside-down, fill with bundles of straw, wood or wool. They eat plant lice that may settle on the tree and disturb fruit growth.
- Lacewig – Bundle straw, dried grass or rolled up cardboard in plastic bottles
Bees pollinate plants and produce honey, beeswax and propolis.
Bee boxes encourage the health of a bee society as well as make it easy for humans to remove the honey from the hive with the least amount of disruption possible. Building a bee box to attract bees to your site. This design, called the Emile Warre bee box, has a floor, a stack of bee boxes, a quilt separates the roof from the boxes and a roof.
Here is a good website for building a bee box: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Honey-Bee-Box. (Pictured left – Émile Warré Bee Box)
Bats eat insects. Installing a bat box is another way to rid your site of pesky mosquitoes (see image on the right)
The simplest form of insect control is a frog pond. Frogs eat mosquitoes, moths and other flying insects. Frogs also eat fish eggs. So you’re pond will either be a fish pond or a frog pond.
You can install a light in a pond to attract mosquitoes and the mosquitoes will fall in the pond.
- Cut a piece of tin into an “L” shape, build rain protection roof,
- Set vertically above your pond
- Hang a florescent light bulb in the “L”
- Place at the edge of a garden/pond area
- Light attracts insects, then they fall in the water
Simple mosquito trap
- Cut a 2-liter bottle in half
- Mix brown sugar with hot water. Let cool. When cold, pour in the bottom half of the bottle
- Add yeast. This creates carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes.
- Place the funnel part upside down, into the other half of the bottle, taping them together if desired
- Wrap the bottle with something black (black repels mosquitoes)
- Leave the top uncovered and place outside away from where you spend time
- Change solution every 2 weeks
Animals are an integral part of many mature farming communities. They provide food, generate wealth, keep pests at bay and provide love and companionship.
Like all other aspects of permaculture communities, the goal is self-reliance. So before acquiring animals for your farm, you need to determine whether you have enough food, water and structures to keep them safe and healthy throughout their life.
Whether you plan to raise chickens for eggs, raise goats for milk, raise cats and dogs for pest control and security and love and companionship, make sure you sort out the resources and space required to ensure their well-being, before bringing them home.
Most animals eat a variety of food scraps, cereal grains, root crops and grasses. If you plan on taking care of animals, make sure you have a good source of food, whatever they require, before you take on the responsibility.
Animal dwellings provide clean, dry, warm place to sleep, eat and poo. You can make chicken coops, rabbit hutches, birdhouses… for each animal, think about where they will sleep, what they will eat and where they will drink.
Raised animal dwellings
One design is to construct raised houses above a pond and allow the pee and poo to fall into a pond (see aquaculture for more information) or to make it easy to collect the poo.
Animals eat about 2.5-3% of their body weight in food each day. A 1000-pound cow or horse, for example, eats about 30 pounds of food per day.
1000-pounds of animal weight = 1 animal unit
For every 1 animal unit, you want to have 2 acres of space. So two 500-pound cows or 200 5-pound chickens would require 2 acres of space.
Grazing is a type of feeding, in which domestic livestock are used to convert grass and other forage into meat, milk and other products.
Large grazers like cows, goats or sheep first skim off the highest, tough growth of plants. Then smaller herbivores like pigs, chickens, ducks or turkeys eat the exposed tender shoots.
It’s easy to overgraze an area with too many animals. To prevent over-grazing, you can rotate animals to allow the vegetation to regrow.
Rotational grazing is a strategy to move animals frequently between pastures to give the land time to recover. Resting grazed lands allows vegetation to renew energy reserves, rebuild shoot systems, and deepen root systems. Allow about 14 days between grazing periods, depending on the size of the heard and size of the pasture.
Okay, so to recap this chapter:
- Insects and animals are mobile creatures: They require food, water and shelter… and love.
- If you build it or provide it, they will come
- And if you are going to allow animals to graze land, make sure you give the land time to recover between feeding
There’s certainly a lot more to caring for animals than I have provided in this chapter. This is mainly because of my experience limitations. And I look forward to learning more about these wonderful creatures. Okay, that’s it for the insects and animals chapter, thank you for your time.