Someone left the screen door open, and suddenly our house is full of annoying, buzzing, flies. They circle the kitchen while I’m cooking, tangle with my hair while I’m sitting at my computer, and zoom past my Kindle when I’m reading in the evening. I have to ask, did we really have to have flies, God?
Every gardener knows that ladybugs are “good” bugs because they eat “bad” bugs. Educated gardeners know that ladybugs are actually beetles, and that they eat aphids, scale insects, immature beetles and true bugs, and mites. The adults are efficient predators; the larvae are even more voracious. No wonder we want lady beetles in our gardens!
The simplest way to get lots of these colorful beetles is to buy them, and many people do just that. It’s a huge industry. However, buying ladybugs is largely a waste of money, and may even harm the environment! There are better ways to attract not only ladybugs but other beneficial insects as well.
The black spider crept across the basement floor, venom glistening from its deadly jaws. While the unsuspecting heroine rummaged through some boxes, the spider crept closer, and yet closer, until…
It’s a familiar scenario for a scary movie, but there isn’t much truth to the image of the malevolent black widow stalking its human prey. Yes, these spiders are venomous, and yes, they can bite us and do damage. But Black Widows really need a new image. They’re actually shy and retiring creatures who desperately want nothing to do with us humans.
During a recent visit to a local business, a tiny little beetle was discovered making its way along the baseboard, laboriously climbing over each bump in the carpet. Alarmed, the owner rushed over and glowered at the intruder, commenting that it was the second one she’d seen in as many days. She promised to pick up an insecticidal “bomb” to set off that evening after closing. I rescued the pint-sized ground beetle and carried it outdoors before it got stepped on. I’m sure it was relieved to be deposited in the grass, where it could go back to preying on smaller insects.
With winter approaching, many insects are looking for a place to shelter until spring. They don’t know the difference between a bark crevice and a door frame, and they unwittingly end up in our houses. Most are completely harmless, and can be simply redirected back outside. Instead, we reach for the can of bug spray.
Do your lilacs look like someone took a giant hole punch to their leaves? How about your rosebushes (left), green ash, or Virginia creeper? The first time I saw the precise circle of leaf missing from a leaf, I thought someone was playing a trick on me. It didn’t look at all like insect damage.
If we set a thief to catch a thief, then why not set a bug to eat a bug? Sometimes the best way to control an outbreak of an insect pest is to use another insect, or a close relative (such as spiders). Ladybugs, the most famous of these insect killers, are wimps compared to some of the other predatory critters in your garden. Lacewing larvae, ground beetles, praying mantises, wasps, hover flies, spiders… there are plenty of beasties who are more than happy to keep garden pests under control.
The quintessential “good bug,” ladybugs (aka ladybird beetles) are the poster child of the beetle world. Everyone knows that ladybugs eat aphids and other “bad bugs” (especially scale insects) and should be welcomed in the garden.
Actually, not all ladybug species are red. Some species are orange, yellow, white, black, brown, or gray. And not all ladybug species eat aphids, although most do. Some are even agricultural pests, such as the infamous Mexican Bean Beetle. Still, most ladybugs are red, and they eat vast numbers of aphids, as well as scales, mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, mites and other soft-bodied insects and their eggs.
I admit to being an arachnophobe. Even though intellectually I know how helpful spiders are in the garden, I still get the shakes and run screaming when I see them. Still, we can change, right? I’m doing better. In fact, I’ve struck up an arachnid pact (well, it’s one-sided, but still…)—any spider in the garden is welcome to stay and make itself at home. Any spider that dares infiltrate my home? Let’s just hope my husband is around to rescue it.
In return for my beneficence, I expect some payback. That garden spider is tasked with taking care of any harmful pest infestations. Happily, I can have my garden and the spiders can have their lunches. All spiders are predators, and never feed on plants. That’s a pretty sweet combination.