Cheerful Exterminators

Since purchasing our Littleton, Colorado, farm in 1990, we have decided not to use herbicides or pesticides on the property.  While insects always pose some threat to plants, native vegetation is generally well adapted to their presence and native insectivores play a vital role in limiting their impact.

Among the latter are common bushtits, small, sociable songbirds that inhabit open pine woodlands, suburbs and urban parks throughout the Western U.S.  Long common along the Front Range of the Southern Rockies, from Colorado Springs to New Mexico, these cheerful insectivores have moved northward into Metro Denver over the past decade.  Today, a flock of a dozen or more bushtits roamed through our farm, gleaning insects and spiders from twigs and leaves, often hanging upside-down to snatch their prey.  While they have nested on our property in recent years, I have not encountered their distinctive hanging nests this spring.

The presence of these twittering flocks is certainly preferable to the use of toxic pesticides.  We may lose some fruit, shrubs and trees as a consequence but a commitment to conservation begins at home.  Besides, why not let our wild neighbors do the work!