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The leaves of the tulip poplar tree, which are a favorite of tiger swallowtail butterflies, but little else.
The leaves of the tulip poplar tree, which are a favorite of tiger swallowtail butterflies, but little else. (Ellen Nibali for The Baltimore Sun)

The woods around me are almost all tulip poplar since the gypsy moths wiped out the oaks years ago. I love mine for its tulip-shaped leaves and flowers. Now I have room to plant one shade tree. Should I plant another? I’m planting for wildlife.

Tulip poplars are a favorite of one butterfly, the tiger swallowtail, but oddly enough tulip poplar does not serve as host for much else. It didn’t make Doug Tallamy’s list of top 20 native trees that support butterflies and moths. (Caterpillars are so fat and juicy, they are a major food source anchoring the wildlife food chain.)

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Oaks are the number one choice, followed by willow, cherry, birch, crabapple, maple, pine, hickory, hawthorn and spruce, in descending order. These are easy to find trees and powerful drivers of healthy wildlife environment.

We’ve been getting a lot of advertising from a pest control company that hawks mosquito control with a natural product. Is this safe for people and the environment?

Ask them about the active ingredient of the product they use. Most likely, it’s one of the pyrethroids, synthetic versions of naturally occurring pyrethrins — chemicals from chrysanthemum flowers. (Yes, pyrethrin is natural — but, then, so is arsenic.)

Pyrethroids are broad-spectrum pesticides, meaning they do not target just one type of insect (mosquitoes), and may kill or negatively affect bees and other beneficial insects, for example, the predatory mites that keep your pest mites under control. Pyrethroids are also toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms and should not be applied near water.

And they do not prevent mosquitoes from flying in.

For more depth on mosquito control tips, options, repellents and treated clothing, search ‘mosquito control’ on the University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center website.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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