Insects don't need native plants?

EDIT: Nevermind, its not worth my energy.


We will battle to find common ground. In your own garden you make choices which suit you. We would like to restore habitat, to make space again for what we have pushed aside for ‘services to people’.

Clearly this is a topic many people feel very strongly about and I’m a bit hesitant to leap in without really having studied the matter in great depth as some of you have. But… I believe one of the problems is how difficult it is to really be sure what that best choice actually is. The dynamics of nature are so profoundly complicated and so many decisions we humans have made in the past in absolute good faith are now seen to have been detrimental or sometimes even disastrous. How can we be sure that we know best?
Both my heart and head tend towards giving native the benefit of the doubt in most cases, but I feel there are also some situations which are neither black nor white. The world we live in has changed dramatically and the environments where native species once flourished may simply have altered so much that restoration to whatever baseline we have chosen has become well-nigh impossible. I don’t have too much difficulty in hypothesising that a non-native species occupying much the same ecological niche but able to better withstand the new conditions we’ve created could just represent a more viable long term option than trying to artificially recreate and maintain habitats which developed in very different ecological conditions which will never return.
Neither do I have too great a difficulty in accepting the use of non-native plants for particular situations, such as the phytoremediation of badly polluted land, to ideally be replaced by native species once their role has been fulfilled.
Perhaps not so much common ground as a minefield that makes me uneasy, but to make black and white work, perhaps we need to accept some grey in their midst.


Indeed. I had missed that. It is conceivable that the abundance related analysis could be affected by the exclusion of non-native caterpillars. However, the species richness related analysis would be relatively unchanged by the exclusion of ~3 species.

My original statement was a bit simplified. I didn’t mean to imply that enemy release was the only contributing factor to an invasive insect’s abundance. Often there are many interworking things at play and what applies to one species may not apply to another. I think this also applies to the study you shared. Enemy release may not have been a major player for those plant species, but to extrapolate that and say enemy release never happens (especially when switching from plants to insect), seems ill advised.

I’m not going to touch your statements about parallels to human migration, except to say, even without intentional malevolence (something that happened more than just “sometimes”), colonialism was horrific.

Except, it seems they are far more willing to grant their “beneficial” label to non-natives over natives.

But there are other native plants that preform these same services. This is why it feels “pro-nonnative” rather than “pro-beneficial plants”. Because there is never any acknowledgement that natives can be used in the same way. To the point where people are touting carbon storage and erosion control among invasive plants’ attributes, as if those didn’t apply to a huge list of natives.

If we stopped at elimination, no we wouldn’t be better off. But again, there are tons of natives that support the same bees and leps plus way more. Is a monoculture of clover better than a monoculture of tall fescue (another non-native)? Of course!

I’m not advocating for an attempt at eliminating clover. But I do think we should stop seeding it in our pollinator and wildlife mixes. There are far too many native legumes that would far out preform clover if given a chance.


Yeah okay so its morning now, I’m awake, and I’m going to say it.

Repeatedly comparing discussions of plants to the plight of immigrants and the horrors of colonialism is so repugnant and dehumanizing that i cannot take anything else you say seriously.

There is a way to discuss this subject with nuance - it has been, in this thread, quite a bit - but that nuance does not including minimizing the struggles of actual human beings


“Years ago i responded to one of their posts asking why don’t they document the biodiversity on inauralist in both a eucalyptus grove and a native plant area, and a restoration site, to document any findings. They declined.”

I don’t recall receiving such a request. If I had I would have gladly obliged. Here are a few studies by academic scientists that compared the biodiversity of eucalyptus with native forests:

Dov Sax (Brown University) studied the eucalyptus forest in Berkeley, California, and compared it to native oak-bay woodland. He found little difference in the species frequency and diversity in these two types of forest:
Species richness was nearly identical for understory plants, leaf-litter invertebrates, amphibians and birds; only rodents had significantly fewer species in eucalypt sites. Species diversity patterns…were qualitatively identical to those for species richness , except for leaf-litter invertebrates, which were significantly more diverse in eucalypt sites during the spring.” ( Dov Sax, “Equal diversity in disparate species assemblages: a comparison of native and exotic woodlands in California,” Global Ecology and Biogeography, 11, 49-52, 2002.)

Igor Lacan, et. al. (UC Berkeley) compared the biodiversity of aquatic insects in riparian corridors bordered by eucalyptus and native forests. He found:

“[Differences in] yearly litter input rates in reaches bordered by Eucalyptus and by native vegetation were not statistically significant.”

“Species diversity and pollution tolerance did not differ significantly between eucalyptus and native sites, with one exception. There was a higher proportion of one complex of insects (Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera, Plecoptera) in the eucalyptus samples.”

“The abundance of the five most common taxa (species or genus) did not differ significantly between eucalyptus and native sites with the exception of mayflies which were on average twice as abundant in eucalyptus sites.”

“One metric of diversity (Shannon Diversity Index) found greater species diversity in eucalyptus sites compared to native sites.”

"The decay of litter in the bags of eucalyptus litter was similar to the bags of native litter, i.e., “leaf mass loss was not significantly different between eucalyptus and native leaves.” Decay of litter is a proxy for the amount of litter consumed by insects and microorganisms in the litter and by extension the population of these organisms in the litter: “…the importance of biotic factors (bacteria, fungi, macroinvertebrates) in litter breakdown is greater than that of the physical fragmentation.”

(Igor Lacan, Vincent Resh, Joe McBride, “Similar breakdown rates and benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in native and Eucalyptus globulus leaf litter in Californian streams,” Freshwater Biology, 55, 739-752, 2010.)

Joe R. McBride (UC Berkeley) gave a presentation to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in August 2014 about the biodiversity of eucalyptus forest. Professor McBride said: “Contrary to popular belief, eucalyptus forests have as many species (or more!) growing in their understory as do oak woodlands. A 1990 survey in Tilden Park found 38 species in the understory of eucalyptus forests (24 native plants; 14 introduced plants), while the oak woodland had 18 species in understory (14 native plants; 5 introduced plants). Only the riparian woodlands in Murray Park are somewhat richer in species than riparian eucalyptus forest (58 species vs 34). In East Bay eucalyptus forests, California Bay, Coast live oak, poison oak, bedstraw, California blackberry, and chickweed were ubiquitous. The amount of light reaching the ground influences which species can be found in the understory.”

(That study was done by Robert Stebbins (UC Berkeley) under contract to East Bay Regional Park District. The study is unpublished.)

There are other studies about use of eucalyptus by birds, bees, and monarch butterflies. I would be happy to provide those citations.

Thank you for this opportunity to provide this information to iNaturalist.

Thanks for allowing these gray areas! I do have confidence in mother nature learning to adapt, even though it likely means she will get rid of her worst problem, which is overpopulation. We simply cannot continue to abuse her resources, alter her climate and expect to survive.

Here is an email I sent to the author of DCTropics on September 2nd because comments had been disabled on the Facebook page. Readers of this thread may find some of this information useful:

I agree that plant-eating insects are important members of the food web as both predators and prey. We can thank Doug Tallamy for reassurance that plant-eating insects are as likely to eat non-native plants as they are native plants. This is Tallamy’s description of a study done by one of this graduate students: “Erin [Reed] compared the amount of damage sucking and chewing insects made on the ornamental plants at six suburban properties landscaped primarily with species native to the area and six properties landscaped traditionally. After two years of measurements Erin found that only a tiny percentage of leaves were damaged on either set of properties at the end of the season….Erin’s most important result, however, was that there was no statistical difference in the amount of damage on either landscape type.” (Tallamy, Doug, “Flipping the Paradigm: Landscapes that Welcome Wildlife,” chapter in Christopher, Thomas, The New American Landscape, Timber Press, 2011)

Even insects considered specialists are capable of making a transition from one host to another chemically similar host. In some cases, the transition is made without genetic changes. For example, Doug Tallamy’s criticism of buddleia is that although it is an important source of nectar for butterflies, it isn’t a host plant for its larvae. He is mistaken. Checkerspot bred successfully on buddleia in 2005 and in subsequent years. This colony of checkerspot on buddleia was reported in 2009: “We conclude that buddleia davidii [and other species of buddleia] represents yet another exotic plant adopted as a larval host by a native California butterfly and that other members of the genus may also be used as the opportunity arises.” (Arthur M. Shapiro and Katie Hertfelder, “Use of Buddleia as Host Plant by Euphydryas chalcedona in the Sierra Nevada foothills, California,” News of the Lepidopterists’ Society, Spring 2009)

Tallamy makes a similar mistake in The Living Landscape (Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy, Timber Press, 2014) He claims that a butterfly in Florida was brought back from the brink of extinction when people planted a native species of cycad in their gardens. In fact, the popularity of an ornamental non-native cycad is credited with the return of the Eumaeus atala. (Wikipedia)

In other cases, genetic changes are required for the insect to make the transition from a native to a chemically similar non-native plant. In Bringing Nature Home, Tallamy claims that the golden rain tree is “not related to any lineage of plants in North America.” Golden rain tree is a member of the Soapberry family, as is the native plant that is the food of the specialized soapberry bug, which made the transition from its native food source to the golden rain tree in 20-50 years. Genetic changes were needed to make its mandible longer to eat the bigger fruit of the golden rain tree. It’s a case of evolution, rather than adaptation. (

The nativist ideology exaggerates the degree of specialization of insects and underestimates the speed of adaptation and evolution. Large populations of insects with short lives and early reproductive ability accelerates adaptation and evolution. When coal mining in England polluted the air and covered cities in soot in mid-19th century, a species of moth turned from light to dark within 50 years as a result of natural selection, which camouflaged moths against predation by birds. When mines were shuttered and air quality improved, natural selection returned the moth species a lighter color (Wikipedia:

Another case of rapid evolution in a changing environment is found in the Beak of the Finch (Jonathan Weiner, 1994) which reports the 30-year study of Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands. Extreme weather events accelerate the pace of natural selection and evolution. An extreme drought in 1977 killed nearly 75% of the finches. No birds were born that year. The birds that survive were 5-6% larger than the dead birds and their beaks were longer and deeper, which enabled them to eat the large seeds of the only surviving plant species. The next generation of finches were bigger with bigger beaks.

Although natural selection operates more quickly on insects, it is also a factor in the evolution of mammals. Decades of poaching of elephants for ivory in Africa has produced a population of tuskless elephants. (

This is just a sampling of my large collection of examples such as these, based on the reading I have done. My collection would be larger if there were unlimited resources for conducting the complex and demanding field studies needed to report on the changes occurring in nature. If you have done field studies, you can understand why our knowledge of changing nature is limited. Please note that citations are provided for all of my examples, whereas most supporters of invasion biology are expressing their opinions.

I fully agree about working together to save spaces, the real issue is too many humans to sustain, leading to overdevelopment, pollution, harmful big ag practices etc. My 118 acres will be in a conservation easement when I am gone.

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Thanks for these wonderful and documented examples of how nature adapts!

Please try to keep the posts in this thread on topic in reference to the OPs original question and iNat:

The iNat forum isn’t a place to extensively revisit disputes from other online fora.


It looks like new accounts are being created specifically to defend and reinforce the garden rant stance.


Today I read that this little plant is pollinated by oil-collecting bees. Not something that garden bling plans for.

For these bees
And then only 10 obs on iNat!


As long as they are real people and not sock puppets, that doesn’t violate anything.

Can we have a moritorium of people saying N*tivist, i find that word morally repulsive too. I really don’t think we should have garden rant people in here who aren’t using iNaturalist coming in to dump their agenda here… In terms of asking the eucalyptus forest lovers to document their findings, i meant in an iNaturalist project not by copy-pasting hand-picked papers without other context.


Absolute numbers are not enough. Paradoxically, if you consider biodiversity as a simple numbers game, a high biodiversity may sometimes be indicative of a degraded environment. The most vivid example that springs to mind is a comparison between a natural dune habitat with maybe a dozen or so species of plant at most and a dune where various non-natives have been introduced, either for consolidation or for ornament, with perhaps thirty or more species. But I wouldn’t think anyone sensitive to nature would consider the latter as in some way “better” than the former.
Or there is the case of our native beech woods in the Italian Apennines. They are typically extremely species poor, and become ever more as they mature… a degraded logged forest on the other hand may have double or triple the number of species. But here again, I don’t think any naturalist would consider a logged beech wood as better for nature… or for us. I’m talking about plants here as that’s what I know most about, but I can imagine the same could also apply to animals.
The importance in both natural habitats I cite lies in the particular qualities of the species naturally found there, sometimes indeed their uniqueness. While in the more man-manipulated environments, the species, although perhaps more numerous, are usually more generalist and less important from a conservation perspective (although obviously that is a generalisation that would require another thread to discuss).
Biodiversity in the positive sense must mean NOT total number of species, but the right species in the right place. And that’s altogether another story.


Never said that it did. Merely pointing out that the same people are inserting themselves wherever these conversations pop up, making it seem like this ideology is more widespread than it is.


Unfortunately, despite this being called the ‘iNat’ Forum - anyone can sign up and join the conversation. No need to have any knowledge of using iNat, or any interest in how iNat works. (Which is even stranger, since iNat pays for the Forum service)

And the Forum is public, so searchable on Google and available to flag for alerts on MY Topic.

Does anyone besides me here watch Crime Pays but Botany Doesn’t?

He’s been releasing videos from the Chicago area recently and working on projects installing prarie gardens in suburban/urban housing - but he also released this phenomenal video showing how the plant grower he’s been working with has transformed their property back from cornfield to a natural prairie space.

Totally worth the watch


We experience this in wetlands too. Running a bulldozer through a wetland might result in a dozen new Asteraceae generalist species, plus native ruderal grasses. Doesn’t mean we should bulldoze wetlands. We don’t use ecological ‘richness’ as an ecosystem health metric for this reason. There was a paper about it recently.