The Food Web and Your Garden

Understanding the food web on a basic level will shed light on much of the good your garden brings to you. Unfortunately there may be some gardening problems that turn up you should be aware of, including pests.

Food Web

Because caterpillars and butterflies will be living
within your garden, they need host plants, nectar sources and other
butterfly food.  So...

What do butterflies eat?
A lot!

How do butterflies taste?

The pollination process not only creates other vegetation growth, it is also food sources for butterflies, other insects and animals.

Let's start with the food web...

[Note - bold terms are defined in detail at the bottom of page]

Our gardens, our yards and our city parks are all ecosystems.

An ecosystem is a functional community of living and non-living factors all tied-in, creating a circle of nutrition and energy.

It also becomes the predator - prey relationship. Other examples of ecosystems are the desert, rain-forest, grassland and ocean. One very important example to us is the soil food web.

Most ecosystems start with the sun's energy creating photosynthesis. Photosynthesis converts inorganic (dead matter without carbon) into organic (living matter with carbon). The organism that is able to self-develop inorganic to organic is called an autotroph. The autotroph then creates life. In our soil it starts with tiny sprouts becoming a medley of new and different plants... and food.

These new plants are called producers. A producer is able to manufacture its own food with the suns light energy and water. Leaves are designed flat and open so they can absorb energy the suns rays. This is how the plants you want in your garden sustains their own life. Unfortunately, this is why those weeds keep coming back - bummer, eh?

These plants, or producers, can become food for consumers. In the butterfly garden a consumer, such as a caterpillar, eats leaves. Unwelcome consumers in our gardens can be Aphids of Japanese Beetles along with other pests.

This producer - consumer relationship continues up the food chain. Predators who may consume a caterpillar, butterfly or aphid are called secondary consumers.

The good news is that many insects and animals live together helping make your garden a beautiful living oasis. For those insects and animals that are not consumed, nature takes its course and in time they will fade and die.

The cycle starts over where dead, inorganic matter decays and becomes food for decomposers. A decomposer can be bacteria, fungus, sowbug and earthworm. They become the autotroph and produce simple nutrients placing them back into the soil where tiny sprouts start again.

This video details simply ecosystems and the inhabitants.

This video develops more the predator-prey relationship.

Below are more detailed definitions of the bold terms above related to the food web and other pages on this website.

  • Food Web: A combination of different food chains that interconnect forming a network.
  • Food Chain: The progression line of higher animal/organism members eating lower members for energy.
  • Community: Plants and animals living together within the same environmental conditions.
  • Ecosystem: A functioning community of living and non-living organisms providing a circle of nutrition and energy.
  • Keystone Species: A necessary species needed for the survival of other species within an ecosystem. The loss of a keystone species would lead to the decline or disappearance of other species.
  • Population: Like or same species.
  • Organic: Living matter with carbon.
  • Inorganic: Non-living matter without carbon.
  • Carbon: The main element needed to sustain life.
  • Troph: Each level in a web or chain.
  • Autotroph: An organism that can produce its own food by turning inorganic matter into organic matter through photosythesis.
  • Heterotroph: Those animals and organisms that can't make their own food. They can be primary consumers, or herbivores. This could be the squirrel.
  • Decomposer: Organisms that feed on dead animal and other inorganic matter. With over the 100,000 different organisms, the dead are broken down allowing photosynthesis to take place. This can be bacteria and fungi.
  • Primary Consumer: Those that feed on plants.
  • Secondary Consumer: Those that feed on Primariy Consumers. They can be Carnivores or Omnivores. Examples of these would be a squirrel, which can eat the insect or the bird.
  • Tertiary Consumer: Those that feed on Secondary consumers, also Carnivores. Because the squirrel would eat the bird they are also tertiary consumers.
  • Herbivores: Those insects and animals that feed only on plants. They can be crickets all the way to deer.
  • Carnivores: Meat eating organisms only. These are Tertiary Consumers.
  • Omnivores: Eats both plants and meat. These are Secondary Consumers.
  • Coevolution: Co-evolution or two or more species that reciprocate and contribute within an ecosystem.


  • Did you happen to notice the above paragraph where it
    stated Most eceosystems start with the suns energy?

    One example of an ecosystem that doesn't start with photosynthesis from the suns energy would be the far
    depths of the sea where sunlight does not travel.

    Rather than photosynthesis, the autotrophs convert
    inorganic to organic through chemical energy. A process
    called Chemosynthesis.

Related Articles:

How do Plants Grow? - Understand more about the germination process from which vegetation grows.

    Back from Food Web to home page Easy Butterfly Garden

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