City News

Charlotte welcomes wildlife

A crimson clover cover crop blooms in front of Fern Restaurant on Central Avenue, Charlotte.
A crimson clover cover crop blooms in front of Fern Restaurant on Central Avenue, Charlotte. DON BOEKELHEIDE

Charlotte is officially a wild place to live – at least when it comes to wildlife.

The National Wildlife Federation has named Charlotte a Wildlife Friendly Community, and Celebrate Charlotte Nationally, an event honoring the achievement, will be held May 2 in Marshall Park. National NWF CEO Collin O’Mara will join Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter and other guests for a morning of environmentally-oriented festivities.

“This certification makes Charlotte the largest city east of the Mississippi to be named a “Wildlife Friendly Community,” said Ernie McLaney, president of CROWN (Charlotte Reconnecting Ourselves With Nature), the Wildlife Federation’s local chapter.

The designation is based on requirements set by the National Wildlife Foundation. CROWN reports that more than 850 certified wildlife habitats have been created in Charlotte area backyards, schoolyards and other community locations. To become certified, a yard or garden must provide wildlife with food, water, cover, and places to raise young.

CROWN is one of 13 chapters of the N.C. Carolina Wildlife Federation across the state. The local organization encourages a “growing number of sustainably-minded stewards who are making a difference” to join forces, McLaney said.

“We feel it is vital to find a positive balance between economic development and the conservation of quality ecosystems,” McLaney said. “Replacing the monoculture of turf-based landscaping with natural areas using native plants could be the most important thing a homeowner can do to improve their local environment.”

CROWN holds monthly meetings September through May at Queens University. Meetings are open to the general public; each focuses on a different environmental topic.

Meanwhile, there’s some wildlife nobody wants around.

Mosquitoes are near the top of the unwelcome summer guests list. Michael Waldvogel, an entomologist at N.C. State, recently shared timely tips with state Extension agents on coping with skeeters.

“Our warming temperatures and recent spate of heavy rains will lead to increased mosquito activity over the few weeks,” Waldvogel said. “Before people begin their chemical assault on the biting menaces, remind them that they can put a reasonable dent in future populations simply by engaging in some ‘tip and toss’ – which sounds more like a kids’ game or a bar game.”

But tip and toss is actually a mosquito-control strategy.

Mosquitoes need water for breeding. Waldvogel cites research in North Carolina by Charles Apperson who surveyed residential yards looking for mosquito larvae, or wrigglers. More than half of buckets, toys and tires left in yards held water with wrigglers, and, worse, 73 percent of plastic tarps covering firewood piles, cars and other stored items collected puddles teaming with larvae.

“While we’re still early in mosquito season,” Waldvogel said, “now is a good time for people to engage in what entomologists call ‘habitat modification.’ More simply put: Clean up around your home and yard.”

On Waldvogel’s check list:

▪  Get rid of all objects that collect water (old tires, lidless trash cans, etc.); if you have to keep them, empty them regularly.

▪  Put fresh water in bird baths and pet dishes daily, and toss the old.

▪  Drill drainage holes in anything that collects water, including benches and swing seats.

▪  Keep gutters clean, and make sure water doesn’t gather around downspouts. Be particularly careful to get rid of moist decaying leaves, which attract mosquitoes.

▪  Keep drainage ditches and plants clean of debris, so water doesn’t puddle.

▪  If you harvest rain in a barrel to use on your garden (a good idea), be sure to screen the top to keep out debris and mosquitoes.

The greatest danger comes from sometimes deadly diseases mosquitoes transmit. Waldvogel recommends that adults and children use EPA-approved mosquito protection products outdoors during mosquito season.

Two approaches dominate chemical controls, according to Waldvogel: a fog to kill flying insects, or a resting spray that kills insects when they land on shrubs and other resting sites. “Even mosquitoes need a break from flying and feeding,” Waldvogel said.

Such treatments, done properly with approved insecticides, can significantly suppress mosquitos but never completely eradicate them, he noted.

Waldvogel cautions that sprays can also kill beneficial insects that pollinate crops and prey on mosquitoes and other pests. Also, particularly in urban areas, wind can blow insecticides onto a “backyard bee hive, organic garden, barbecue grill, pet (or the pet’s food and water), or a child playing” in the yard next door.

“One thing we know about managing mosquito populations is that it takes the proverbial ‘village’ to make it work,” Waldvogel said.

Don Boekelheide is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Don? Email him at

Want to go?

Celebrate Charlotte Naturally takes place 10 a.m.-noon May 2 in Marshall Park, 800 E. Third St., Charlotte. Admission is free; free parking at the Charlotte Board of Education Parking Lot, 701 E. M.L. King Jr. Blvd. There will be informational tables from local environmental groups and governmental agencies, family-nature activities, music and a ceremony featuring National Wildlife Federation CEO Collin O’Mara to mark Charlotte’s recognition as a “Wildlife Friendly Community.” Information: