Inviting Nature to Dinner

The benefits of bringing biodiversity
to our backyards

by Helen Schwencke & Dick Copeman
Brisbane: Earthling Enterprises, October 2020

What people have said:
“I found it fascinating and useful”.
Prof Roger Kitching, Griffith University

“Brilliant. This book is a Trojan horse. You might think it’s a book about butterflies (and it is) but it’s really a challenge and a call to arms.”
Ron Carr, Naturalist & Bushcarer

Ordering info

  • Order online
    —  via credit card or Paypal is available for QLD, NSW and Vic.  Please email for an invoice and details
    Outside these States please use mail order. 
    Startrack doesn’t deliver to PO Boxes at a reasonable price for shipping.
    The cost includes a 5% surcharge. 
  • By mail order for $35 plus $13 delivery.
    By Email: Please download and complete the Order Form,  pay by direct deposit and email form with payment advice, the address as per the form.
  • Retailers:
    Avid Reader, Australian Entomological Supplies,  Barung Landcare, Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee,  Friends of Lismore Rainforest Botanic Gardens, Northey St City Farm, Paten Park Native Nursery,  QLD Museum Shop

Preview Edition
This is a Preview edition of the book, and is complete in itself. The subject is a vast one so this edition includes a sample of what can be included in future editions.
We invite your feedback and questions, and want to know what else would be useful.
If you buy this edition and register your email address (link here) or join the Inviting Nature to Dinner Facebook page, you will be offered the expanded version, planned for late 2023, at a 25% discount.


Nature is at a crisis point. Land clearing, climate change, chemicals and invasive species are decimating the living creatures with whom we share the planet. We may feel powerless to challenge these global trends, but we are not. This book shows how, by starting in our own gardens, we can begin to make a difference, amply shown by Helen’s 33-year-old butterfly and wildlife garden.

Insects comprise the great majority of all animal species and play key roles in the ecology of our world, including converting plants into food for other creatures. Many insects depend on specific plants to feed their larvae. By planting these native host plants in our gardens, we can support healthy populations of insects that will not only support the whole complex web of life but will also help protect our plants from the very small percentage of insects that can adversely affect them. An added bonus is that some of these native host plants are also edible for us.

Helen Schwencke and Dick Copeman take the reader on an exciting journey into the world of small creatures. Based on both academic and citizen science, eminently readable and beautifully illustrated, their text also provides practical advice on designing your garden and sourcing plants for it, so that you too can join them in Inviting Nature to Dinner.

Table of contents

1 Why this book? 1
   Decline of insects and other invertebrates    2
       Habitat destruction    3
       Chemicals   3
       Invasive species    5
       Climate change    5
    Ecological simplification    5
    A role for gardeners    6
2  The diversity of life – why every species counts    7
    Overview of life-forms, classification, life cycles, behaviour and ecology   8
    Lifeforms on Earth – how they are classified    8
    The diversity of life    10
    Insect diversity   12
    Insect life cycles    12
3  The ecology of growing our food    16
   Plants    16
   Food webs    16
   Insects    18
   Allies and competitors    19
   Population cycles    20
   Plants and insects    20
   Larval and adult food plants    23
   Pollination    24
   Coming face-to-face with our subject    25
4  Wildlife friendly gardening    30
   How to support native wildlife in your garden    30
   Grow local native plants    30
   Grow a diverse range of plants    31
   Grow host plants for caterpillars other insect larvae    32
   Grow local native flowering plants, especially those that are good nectar producers    33
   Grow local native plants that are edible    34
   Attract native wildlife to your vegetable garden and orchard    34
   Grow plants with dense or prickly foliage    35
   Grow plants that produce a lot of seed or fruit    36
   Leave the old and the dead in place    37
   Protect and nurture the soil    38
   Provide water    39
   How to plan a wildlife-friendly garden    41
   Goals for the garden    41
   Other considerations    41
   Sketch a plan    41
   Assess and analyse your site    42
   Select your plants    42
   Place your plants    43
5  Native food plants we can share    46
Case studies of native food plants that are also
food for butterfly larvae and other wildlife      
   Native Mulberry   for   Jezebel Nymph    49
   Scrub caper    for    Caper White    51
   Flame Tree   for   Tailed Emperor    53
   Macadamia  for   Bright Cornelian    55
   Finger Lime & Pink Limeberry  for Dainty & Fuscous Swallowtail   57
   Long-leaved Bolwarra  for  Eastern Dusk-flat  59
   Slender Grape Vine  for  Joseph’s Coat Moth    61
   Zig Zag Vine  for   Pale Triangle    63
   Millaa Millaa Vine  for  Indigo Flash    65
   Stinging Nettle   for   Yellow Admiral    67
   Emu Foot  for Chequered Swallowtail    69
   Kangaroo Grass  for  Evening Brown   71
   Shade Plantain  for  Meadow Argus    73
6  Ecological strategies to control common garden ‘pests’     74
   Lepidoptera   75
   Diptera    77
   Hemiptera    78
   Orthoptera   80
   Other Invertebrates    80
   Arachnida    80
   Molluscs    81
7  Building ecological complexity      82
8  Recipes for native food plants we can share      84
   Macadamia, Warrigal Greens  and Lemon Myrtle Pesto   84
   Bunya Dooja Cake   85 
9  Conclusion – What can we do?    86
Appendices       88
   Appendix 1:  Site assessment and analysis     
   Appendix 2: Some plants (mostly edible) that support butterflies and other
       wildlife in south east Queensland and northern NSW

   Appendix 3: Where to obtain native and bushfood plants in south east Queensland
References   100
Bibliography and Further Reading   103
About the authors   105
Index    106