From the February 2013 Conservationist for Kids
Pest or Pal?
By Gina Jack
A pal is helpful; a pest is not.
While many people don't like milkweed in their yards, it is an essential source of food for monarch butterflies. Is it okay to let part of the yard go wild and allow milkweed to grow there?
While most people don't like mosquitoes, they are an important food source for many animals, including dragonflies, songbirds and bats. You can help limit the numbers of mosquitoes in your yard by making sure they have no standing water, such as in a bucket or old car tire, in which to lay their eggs.
Fungi, including mushrooms, are important decomposers. They break down dead plants and animals and return their nutrients to the soil, helping the soil support new plant growth.
In its native Europe, purple loosestrife provides food for many kinds of insects. Here in North America, it's an invasive species and a pest. No native insects eat it, and it crowds out native wetland plants that are food for our wildlife. Insects that eat purple loosestrife have been brought here from Europe. This seems to have limited the spread of the plant.
What are skunks looking for when they dig in yards? They're looking for grubs (beetle larvae). Grubs eat the roots of grass from underground, and skunks eat grubs.